Kenya’s Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala is credited with having Kenya President Kenyatta now take a personal interest in the woes of coast commuters using the Likoni ferries. Balala last week threw his weight behind proposals to build a bridge across the channel which connects the open ocean with the port of Mombasa. Frequent breakdowns of aged equipment and management incompetence are the two major reasons seen as responsible for the queues which are often kilometers long, backing up on both sides the Mombasa island and the southern mainland.
President Kenyatta earlier today visited the ferry head office and then crossed the channel in the presence of his Tourism Cabinet Secretary, very likely discussing a range of measures which need to be taken to make Mombasa a world-class tourism destination with improved roads, more bridges, a second national convention center, and reliable communal services like rubbish collection and disposal, sewerage services, and meeting the demand for fresh piped water and electricity.
Successive governments have in the past neglected coast infrastructure developments similar to what has rolled out in Nairobi over the past decade, and such omissions have now caught up with the present government at a time when anti-travel advisories have been lifted and tourism is on a growth path once again. Entry and exit from Mombasa to the Nairobi Highway is another bottleneck where motorists are periodically stranded for hours at end, impacting on safari itineraries for tourists visiting the two Tsavo game parks and other reserves like Taita Hills, angering the coast tourism fraternity which has in the past been fobbed off with empty promises.
“Balala’s return is a gift for us. He understands what the coast tourism industry needs like no other because he comes from Mombasa. We were all wondering what took the president so long to replace the former CS with Balala but now that it happened we are very happy. We see progress, we see how Balala tackles our key problems and we are confident that results will follow soon,” contributed a regular Mombasa-based source when passing the information about both president and cabinet secretary riding on the ferry together. He then added: “The new charter flight incentives for Mombasa are one of many steps Balala has taken which under the former regime in tourism were almost unthinkable. Back then all we got was empty talk and empty promises. Balala is in office for less than three months and already things are changing. Of course people feared to campaign openly for change in that portfolio but it is now obvious that your constant digs were completely justified.”
It now remains to be seen if the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority will get marching orders from above to clear more international airlines for direct scheduled flights as has been demanded by the coast tourism fraternity for several years now but without much success.
Qatar Airways continues to show keen interest to add Mombasa to their international network but has been unable to get landing rights, unlike at Mombasa’s nearest competitor, the Spice Island of Zanzibar, which is served by several international scheduled airlines, like Oman Air, FlyDubai, and Qatar Airways, none of which, however, fly to Mombasa.