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CS Balala optimistic over recovery of tourism industry

Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has expressed optimism that the ongoing mega infrastructural projects at the Coast will gradually boost recovery of the tourism industry.

For instance, Balala said the Sh28 billion Dongo Kundu by-pass would spur growth in the tourism sector at the South Coast. The by-pass links Mombasa to Kwale.

The CS said the state will also hasten the expansion of the Ukunda airport (Sh2.3 billion) and Manda airport (Sh 121 million) in Kwale and Lamu counties respectively to further boost the tourism industry.

The expansion of the Manda Airport runway from two kilometers to 2.4km, will enable it to handle bigger aircraft of up to 300 passengers.

”In a bid to ensure identity and proper branding, the two airports will have their names changed to Diani and Lamu respectively to reflect on the destinations they serve,” added Balala, during a dinner held for tourism stakeholders to commemorate the World Tourism Day.

He said the Transport Ministry has assured him that the upgrade of Ukunda and Manda airports is being prioritized for completion to be able to handle larger aircraft.

Meanwhile, Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) is also in the process of upgrading the runway of Malindi Airport in Kilifi County from the current 1.4 to 2.4 kilometres.

The upgrade of the three small airports at the Coast will boost connectivity within the region and to other parts of the world. Balala said such key projects will spur the growth of the tourism sector.

He said that the Dongo Kundu by-pass project that aims to open up the entire South Coast will be a gem as it will ease access to the South Coast and beyond.

The CS said that Destination Diani remains a key attraction in Kenya, hence the government had focused its priorities to ensure there is seamless connectivity to the area.

On her part, Tourism Principal Secretary, Safina Kwekwe said domestic tourism has shown resilience during this period of Covid-19.

Diani Reef Beach Resort & Spa Managing Director, Mr. Bobby Kamani, said that the Worlds Tourism Day highlights the real significance of the travel and tourism industry which has for the past two years been affected by the pandemic like the rest of the global economy.

He said that the theme of this year’s event, ‘Tourism for Inclusive Growth ‘ resonates well with the happenings around the world as various sectors of the economy were badly hit by the pandemic race towards recovery.

”We continue to applaud the government and the people of Kenya for having braved the heavy burden of having to soldier on under very difficult conditions. To the government, we applaud the efforts it has put into place to ensure that the spread of the virus is contained. The various containment measures have helped put infections at manageable levels. We should never drop the guard but keep on following Health protocols to stay safe,” Kamani said.

“We took calculated risks after the pandemic hit us. Slowly we are seeing tourism coming to full recovery. It is our hope as industry players that a full vaccination rollout plan will be achieved to cover the entire length and breadth of our motherland Kenya,” he said.

By Galgalo Bocha



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