By Lavin Atieno
The majestic Cruise Ship MSC Poesia graced the port of Mombasa with its presence, heralding the arrival of 2,500 enthusiastic tourists from various corners of the globe. Accompanied by a crew of 1,000, including 20 proud Kenyans, the vessel’s docking marked a significant milestone for Kenya’s tourism sector.
Capturing the essence of their experience, one passenger expressed heartfelt gratitude, declaring Mombasa as the most welcoming port they’ve encountered during their month-long voyage. “This is the best port that’s made us feel welcome, has tried to help us and make us feel part of the family. So we want to say thank you to Kenya and the people of Kenya,” they remarked.
Eager to explore Kenya’s rich wildlife and cultural offerings, the visitors wasted no time in venturing into the heart of the country. A group of 70 adventurers embarked on a journey to the iconic Masai Mara National Park, where their brief visit is estimated to inject a staggering 23 million Kenyan shillings into the local economy. Similar excursions to Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks further contribute to the economic prosperity of the region.
The significance of cruise tourism in Kenya is underscored by the exponential growth witnessed in recent years. In 2023, the country welcomed 3,123 visitors via cruise ships. However, within the first two months of the current year, the numbers have already surpassed 5,000, signalling a burgeoning interest in Kenya as a premier tourist destination.
Cabinet Secretary of Tourism, Alfred Mutua, echoing the sentiment of untapped potential, emphasized that the 12,000 expected visitors this year merely scratched the surface of Kenya’s capacity. With the country capable of accommodating up to 140,000 cruise ship visitors, efforts are underway to expand and diversify tourism offerings, enticing more travellers to experience the splendour of Kenya.
“My job and the job of my ministry and my team is to grow this 12,000 number to higher numbers,” said CS Mutua, outlining plans to collaborate with cruise ship companies to include Kenya in their itineraries. By leveraging strategic partnerships and innovative initiatives, Kenya aims to solidify its position as a top-tier destination for cruise tourism, unlocking new opportunities for economic growth and cultural exchange.