MOMBASA, Kenya, Dec 24 – The tourism industry at the Coast received a major boot on the eve of Christmas after a cruise ship docked at the port of Mombasa with 1,048 tourists on board.
MS Nautica, which has 648 passengers and 400 crew members, was sailing from Seychelles heading to Zanzibar and later to South Africa.
It is expected to make another stop in Mombasa on February 3 during its return journey.
The cruise ship docks at a time hotels at the Coast are registering nearly 100 percent occupancy during this festive season, according to hoteliers.
Speaking during the reception of the vessel at Berth No.1 at the port of Mombasa, Hajj Masemo, who is the principal corporate communication officer at Kenya Ports Authority, said the arrival of MS Nautica is good news to the tourism sector.
“A cruise ship season starts on September and ends in March. MS Nautica is, therefore, our first vessel for this season, but we expect MS Silver Spirit and others to come later,” said Masemo.
Out of the 1,048 tourists, some 85 of them will be going to Amboseli National Park, another batch of about 170 will make a city tour of Mombasa and some 120 will be touring historical sites in the region.
Cruise ship tourists are considered high spenders. Tourism stakeholders in the region are upbeat that the 13-hour stay of the vessel at the port of Mombasa will bring good tidings to the sector.
The vessel docked at 6:00am Monday and will be leaving Mombasa at 7:00pm on the same day.
At the same time, Masemo said the Sh450-million cruise ship terminal at the port of Mombasa will be completed in August 2019.
The completion of the complex was expected to be August this year but was pushed to December 2019 because of unavoidable circumstances, according to KPA.
Masemo said President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to officially open the terminal once it is completed.
He said the Ministry of Tourism has already engaged the Princess Cruise of United States to start operating one cruise vessel from Mombasa once the terminal is completed.
“Princess Cruise will be operating a vessel, which will be starting and ending its circuit from Mombasa,” he said.
By 2022, Masemo said they also expect the largest cruise ship in the world, MS Queen II, to also start operating in Kenya.
In last cruise tourism season- September 2017- March 2018, Kenyan port of Mombasa received six cruise ships with over 4,800 tourists on board.
This was the best record of the recent years since 2007, before the disputed general election, whereby Kenyan coast was receiving more cruise ships and over 45 charter planes.
Charter planes numbers to Mombasa are now 15 per week from just nine last year. The number has gradually been growing from no flight to now 15.
By next year, tourism stakeholders are upbeat that more charter planes, schedule flights, cruise ships and domestic and regional tourists numbers will increae several folds.