Stakeholders in Kenya’s cruise tourism are looking forward to reaping from a spill over of visitors to South Africa.
There are hopes that the region could benefit from South Africa’s expected bumper crop that will attract both birds and tourists.
Foreign visitors are expected to flock to the country’s shores this coming summer as some of the world’s leading cruise ships follow migratory birds heading south, away from Europe’s winter.
According to statistics from Ports and Ships, a newsletter printed in Southern Africa, Durban expects 53 calls including multiple calls of Mediterranean Shipping Company’s cruise ship MSC Sinfinia between November and April 2010.
Other ships include the giant Queen Mary Two that is expected to call at Cape Town and Durban; P&O’s Aurora; Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity; Fred Olsen’s Balmoral; Seven Sea’s Voyager, and Holland America’s Amsterdam.
Later in the year, Noordam and Westerdam will visit and remain in South African waters until after the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup.
“We expect to benefit from ‘cross cruising’ even though we lack facilities for such huge visits. The Kenya Tourism Board should start marketing the country as a cruise destination, particularly now that the World Cup tournament is coming to South Africa,” said Abercrombie and Kent Kenya director Auni Kanji.
Other stakeholders predict a bright future for the sub sector following the recent formation of the Cruise Indian Ocean Association (CIOA). The organisation was formed in May to market eastern Africa and western Indian Ocean islands as cruise ship destinations.
Kenya has fared badly in the sector, with arrivals plunging to record lows three years ago. The country has not shown signs of recovery since, chiefly because of piracy along the Indian Ocean coast.
Stakeholders said that even with increased surveillance on the Somali coastline, the business needed huge investment if its potential is to be realised.
“The cruise ship business in Mombasa, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar ports has nose-dived to record lows largely due to insecurity, but the trend is also accelerated by lack of proper infrastructure,” said Mr Kanji. The business’ full potential remains untapped due to lack of suitable infrastructure in some destinations.
For instance Lake Victoria, which is the largest fresh water lake in the world connecting the three African states of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, is a virgin destination.
In 2006 the Ministry of Transport shelved plans to construct a modern cruise terminal at Mombasa port after failing to find a strategic partner to invest in the facility.
The terminal plan, contained in the port’s 25-year master plan and its strategic plan of 2005 currently under review, would have re-developed Berth One and Two into a world class cruise ship facility at the cost of $3million.
According to Mr Kanji, the country requires another master plan on how to revamp the sector which remains the fastest growing business in the tourism industry.
He said there was need to revamp the cruise tourism facilitation committee which died after management changes at the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) four years ago.
Making call visits
According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), a ship carrying 2,000 passengers and 950 crew generates an average of $322,705 per call at the home port, while a similar ship making call visits generates $275,000 in onshore spending.
CLIA estimates that 14 million people are expected to use cruise ships during the current year. The peak season is between November and March, during the European winter season.
“The economic value of enticing cruise operators to send more ships to the region is huge. In Kenya, each cruise tourist spends approximately $200 per day. Many of them return for land based holidays,” said Mr Kanji.
Research shows that between 50 and 70 per cent of passengers say they would like to return after visiting a country for the first time.
Mr Kanji said cruise calls at Mombasa port had dropped from 20 vessels in the 2005/2006 season to just eight.
The port expects to receive eight to 10 vessels this season, which would start in November and end next April.