What tourism and shipping players expect this year

Tourists disembark from the World Odyssey cruise ship at the Port of Mombasa. [File, Standard]

Players in the shipping and tourism industries are optimistic that the economy will recover this year and want the government to ensure stability in taxes and develop infrastructure to support growth.

Kenya Ships Agents Association (KSAA) wants the government to raise productivity levels at the ports and invest in infrastructure to support anticipated growth in the volume of business this year.

"We expect to see the port productivity level raised to ensure that no ship waits for a berth. We want the productivity of each berth, each gang and each shift raised at the ports," said KSAA national chairman Sylvester Kututa.

Kututa said industry players expect the government to facilitate the private sector in creating jobs instead of causing non-tariff barriers in their operations.

He told the government and its port agencies to focus more on customers and not over-regulate the industry, adding that there was a need to fully implement the clearing of cargo at the port and border posts before the arrival of the ships to enhance efficiency at the ports.

He called on the government to end waiting time for trucks at weighbridges and the borders to improve turnaround time and reduce the cost of doing business.

"The weighbridges and border points should not be bottlenecks. Documentation should be done early at the ports and border points along the Northern Corridor to ensure ease of doing business," he said, adding that KSAA fully supports speedy development of the Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and the construction of a dedicated berth in Mombasa.

Separately, tourism players at the Coast were optimistic of a full industry recovery post-Covid era should the government listen to their plea.

The top demands by tourism stakeholders are for the national government to ensure stability in taxes and come up with a more friendly environment that will allow the economy to thrive.

Full operationalisation of the Open Sky policy that will see more international airlines land in Kenya will be a boost.

Kenya Coast Skal President, Ms Janet Chamia, said that following President William Ruto's directive on scrapping of Visa requirements for all visitors coming to Kenya, the open sky policy will help cope with travellers demand for air travel capacity.

"As we enter the new year, we hope that the future of Kenya's tourism will be great and more visitors will sample what magical Kenya has to offer," Chamia who replaced Effie Fernandez at the helm of Skal Club (Coast) after a two-year stint said.

She said that they are looking at new diversified products that will be appealing to the different age groups of tourists coming for a holiday.

"We hope this new year will bring a resurgence of travel, cultural exchange, and exploration where visitors will cherish and live to remember their holiday in Kenya, " she said.

Mr John Yegon, General Manager of Hotel Saphire which has undergone massive refurbishment in anticipation of good business said that they are keen to welcome many visitors in the new year.

"We are repositioning the hotel well into the new year. Our target market is the local one but we are strong on seafarers crew exchange where international crew change through the Port of Mombasa come stay with us before boarding ship or when they leave for their respective homes, " Yegon said. 

Tourism Profesional Association (TPA) Secretary, Dr Sam Ikwaye, said that they are fully banking on the national government to ensure that it puts into place friendly policies that will enable investors in the hospitality industry to set up camp and invest heavily.

"There should be investor-friendly policies. Reduce tax burdens we aim for full tourism recovery in the new year, " Ikwaye said.

Plaza Beach Hotel General Manager, Mr Denis Gwaro said that 2023 had its challenges but going forward, the new year presents an opportunity to excel.

"We are known to be a very resilient industry. With the right propping up, we hope to see tourist numbers be they from the domestic, regional and international market growing tenfold," Gwaro said.

Steve Owaki, a Mombasa-based seafarers expert said that while there has been significant improvement in general support infrastructure at the Port of Mombasa in recent times, aggressive marketing for the Cruise ship terminal at the Mombasa Port and at the new Lamu Port needs to be done this year. 

Mombasa Port boasts of an ultra-modern cruise terminal put up with funding from the government and TradeMark East Africa for Sh1.4 billion which is already operational.

The new Port of Lamu which has three berths consists of natural deep harbors which can attract any kind of cruise ship to dock at the facility with much ease. 

''We need to have international cruise lines making either Mombasa Porr or Lamu Port their home ports. If this is done, we shall start reaping directly the real benefits accruing from the lucrative cruise ship tourism, " Owaki said.