Cruise tourism in Kenya seems to be on recovery after another luxury cruise ship docked at the port of Mombasa on November 17 with more than 1,000 tourists and crew.
It was for the first time that MS Insignia which is operated by Oceania Cruises arrived in Mombasa from Seychelles with 668 passengers and 400 crew.
On November 13, MS Nautica which is also operated by Oceania Cruises came to Mombasa with 1,070 tourists and crew.
Following the arrival of MS Insignia, cruise tourist numbers jumped to 2,500 up from 900 last year.
Most of the holidaymakers were from the US while others came from United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Canada, Norway and South Africa.
Some tourists travelled to Tsavo East and West national parks, Amboseli, Shimba Hills game reserve and Mwalughanje Elephant sanctuary for game drives.
Others enjoyed a tour of Mombasa’s Old Town, Fort Jesus, Haller Park and Bombolulu Workshop Cultural Centre.
Bird enthusiasts visited Arabuko Sokoke forest in Kilifi County which boasts 270 bird species.
A Norwegian tourist Ole Kristian Jorgensen and his wife Sigrun said he was over the moon to be back to Mombasa for the second time.
He explained that 20 years ago, he visited Mombasa for a one-week holiday for both leisure and safari in the national parks.
“At the moment, it’s extremely cold in Norway. So, I am glad to be in Mombasa to enjoy the warm weather,” he said.
“I am surprised that Mombasa has tremendously developed compared to when I arrived here for the first time 20 years ago,” Mr Jorgensen explained.
A US couple from San Francisco, Mr John Ritchie and his wife Sandy, said they visited the country for bird watching.
The tourist added that they would tour Arabuko Sokoke Forest in Kilifi County to see rare birds such as Clarke’s Weaver, Sokoke Scops owl, Sokoke Pipit and Amani sunbird.
“We are bird lovers. We will spend the whole day at Arabuko Sokoke to watch various kinds of bird species found in the forest,” the tourist said.
A South African tourist Craig Liddle who was visiting Mombasa for the first time said he came to explore Old Town and the iconic historical building Fort Jesus.
He added that he felt at home due to the friendliness of Mombasa people and the warm weather.
“I am planning to visit again next year for a big safari holiday to enjoy game drives in Kenya’s popular parks and game reserves,” he explained.
Kenya Tourism Board managing director Muriithi Ndegwa said the maiden arrival of MS Insignia was a sign that cruise tourism was on its recovery path.
The KTB boss attributed the increase in cruise ships visiting Mombasa to the US and UK governments’ lift of travel advisories against Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale Counties.
“Barely a week, we have received two cruise ships with 1,312 tourists and 786 crew members a sign that the cruise tourism is picking up,” he said.
Mr Ndegwa said the marketing agency in collaboration with Kenya Ports Authority would aggressively market the destination in effort to attract more cruise tourists.
“Through the Cruise Indian Ocean Association we have been reaching out to international cruise tourism markets to woo back more luxury ships to Mombasa,” he said.
“I thank the Government and County chiefs for keeping Mombasa safe as it has played a major role in reviving the tourism sector,” he explained.
KPA principal corporate communications officer Haji Masemo said more cruise ships are expected to sail to Mombasa before the end of the year.
The number of cruise ship visits to Mombasa, he explained, had increased to four this year compared to two last year.
“Some years ago, the port used to receive 40 cruise ships per year but the numbers took a dive due to piracy in Somalia territorial waters,” he explained.
“But due to improved security in the Indian Ocean, owing to efforts by Kenya Defence Forces and naval forces from the international community, we are witnessing an increase in cruise ship arrivals at the port of Mombasa,” he added.
KPA, he said, is set to construct a passenger terminal at the port next year at a cost of Ksh100 million.