What’s in a name? That is the big question that has sparked debate at the Coast following Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala’s push to rename two airports in the region.
Mr Balala wants Ukunda Airport renamed Diani Airport, and Manda Airport to Lamu Airport. The minister says the rebranding will make it easier to market the two tourist destinations. But critics say the move will give hotels with the same names undue advantage.
Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) Coast branch Executive Officer, Sam Ikwaye, said Diani and Lamu are brand names of the two destinations.
“It is easy for tourists to know about Lamu than Manda or Diani because the beach has been voted many times as one of the best beaches in the world,” said Dr Ikwaye.
He added: “Ukunda is huge with several other economic activities, making it difficult to have targeted marketing. The renaming will give niche positioning, which is key for marketing.”
Currently, the government is expanding Ukunda and Manda airports to enable them to handle bigger aircraft. Manda is being upgraded at a cost of Sh121 million while Ukunda will be expanded at a cost of Sh2.3 billion.
“In a bid to ensure identity and proper branding, the two airports will have their names changed to Diani and Lamu respectively,” said Balala. He added that the Transport Ministry had assured him that the upgrade will be prioritised.
The Kenya Airports Authority is also upgrading the runway of Malindi Airport in Kilifi County from 1.4km to 2.4km.
Diani Reef Beach Resort & Spa Managing Director Bobby Kamani said he supports the renaming exercise. “The name change is synonymous with Diani as one of the destinations at the Kenyan Coast. This will help tourists identify the airport with the destination.”
He added: “Diani Airport gives brand uniformity in the identification of the destination. We cannot wait to see the airport upgrade take place. We are confident that the government, which has already made a firm undertaking, will ensure its upgrade and completion to allow for wide-bodied aircraft to land here.”
Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya, through his Director of Communications Daniel Nyassy, said he supports the change of names.
“Diani is more inclusive as it is a name of an area. Ukunda is just a town. Diani has been an international name. Remember, Diani Beach has won several accolades, including the best beach in Africa eight years in a row,” he said.