Stakeholders in the tourism industry in Malindi have asked the government to hasten the expansion of the Malindi International Airport as a step toward the revival of the ailing sector.
The stakeholders, under the umbrella of the Malindi Progressive Welfare Association, said the delay in increasing the main airport’s runway from the current 1.4 kilometres to 2.5 kilometres was hurting the sector.
The Malindi Progressive Welfare Association Chairperson, Kate Mikala said for the sector to flourish, Malindi International Airport should have a runway that is long enough to enable large aircraft to land with ease.
The association brings together tourism investors, the business community, women in tourism, the Malindi Municipal Board and the County Government of Kilifi, and has been conducting monthly clean-ups since May this year.
The main objective of the monthly clean-up exercise, Ms. Mikala said, was to turn Malindi into a green and blue city with a view to making the resort town attractive to both local and international tourists.
Ms. Mikala’s sentiments were echoed by Kilifi Member of Parliament, Owen Baya, who said the expansion of the airport would enable direct flights from Europe to land in Malindi, and thus make Malindi a preferred destination.
Baya at the same time, praised the association for the monthly clean-up exercise, saying there was hope the Malindi’s glory would return and thus revive the tourism sector, which is on its death bed.
“The major problem facing Malindi and its growth is the Malindi Airport, whose runway cannot allow large planes to land despite the fact that many airlines have expressed willingness to fly directly to Malindi,” he said.
Baya urged the government to compensate the remaining squatters residing on land earmarked for the expansion so it can implement the project.
The Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers Kilifi Branch Chairperson, Maureen Auer lamented that the expansion of the airport had taken too long.
Philemon Makala of the Kenya Tourist Association and the Chairman of the Malindi Municipal Board, Aliasgar Kassamjee, thanked the government for building the Malindi-Sala Gate road leading to the Tsavo East National Park.
Last week, the Italian Billionaire, Flavio Briatore, who has been landing his jet at the airport, also called on the government to complete the expansion, saying there were investors willing to invest in the resort town.
The government has an expansion plan for the airport, but it has had to contend with squatters residing on land earmarked for the project.
The government has already acquired an additional 25 hectares in Kwa Chocha area after compensating squatters to the tune of Sh.418million and is set to pay another Sh.700 million to squatters residing along the airport’s flight path.
However, to expand the main runway to 2.5 kilometres, the government, through the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) needs to acquire an additional 130 hectares, but hundreds of squatters also occupy the land.
The Airport Manager, Jumna Karamu said recently that the KAA was in the process of engaging a consultant who would advise the authority on the resettlement plan for squatters.
“We are currently engaging a consultant who is going to give us a programme and a relocation action plan. Already we have tendered and are waiting for the awarding to the successful bidder,” he said.
He was briefing the Kilifi County Development Implementation and Coordination Committee (CDICC), which had toured the facility on a fact-finding mission.
He said after removing all the squatters, KAA would negotiate with the landowners once all the squatters move out after compensation, with a view to buying the same from them.
“The land belongs to individuals and once we are through with the squatter relocation plan, KAA will negotiate with the owners with a view to acquiring it from them.
By Emmanuel Masha