Tourists want direct flights to Malindi

Squatters next to the Malindi Airport runway. FILE PHOTO | GIDEON MAUNDU |

What you need to know:

  • The tourists fly for an average of nine hours and have to travel for another two hours by road to Malindi.
  • Tour operators from Italy, Germany and Russia say they could bring in more tourists if direct flights are introduced.

Stakeholders have been making efforts to reduce the number of hours European tourists to Malindi, Kilifi County, spend travelling but squatters won’t just allow it.

The idea is to increase the capacity of Malindi Airport to allow direct flights from Europe but squatters have encroached on the land meant for the expansion.

The tourists fly for an average of nine hours and have to travel for another two hours by road to Malindi, which they don’t like.

Thus a land conflict between the squatters and Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) has been a major stumbling block to a government plan to give the airport international status.

Tour operators from Italy, Germany and Russia say they could bring in more tourists if direct flights are introduced.

Hoteliers and tour operators in Malindi and Watamu have also been pushing for the expansion of the airport to allow direct international flights but without much success.

BIGGER AIRCRAFT

On Sunday, KAA acting managing director Yatich Kangugo cited squatter problem as the major hurdle to the expansion of the airport.

“We are working with the Ministry of Transport and the National Land Commission to end the row and pave the way for the expansion,” he said.

“KAA wants to expand the airport to international status so it can handle bigger aircraft.”

Mr Kangugo said efforts to expand the facility have been hampered by the squatters who are encroaching on the airport’s land.

Last week, Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi urged the government to expedite expansion of the airport to allow for direct flights from Europe as one of the ways to revive the sector.

“Although the county government has been promoting tourism in Italy, Germany and Russia, the local airport lacks capacity to handle international flights,” Mr Kingi lamented.

“The major issue affecting tourism in Malindi and Watamu resort towns is that tourists are unhappy travelling for too many hours. The sector could recover at a faster pace if the airport is expanded,” he said.

Last month, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie said Italian tour operators expressed to her the desire to see tourists flown in directly from Milan to Malindi.

She said she would hold talks with her Transport counterpart to push for the expansion of the airport so it can handle international flights.

Ms Kandie also called on KAA to speed up the expansion of Ukunda airstrip in Kwale to enable bigger aircrafts from Nairobi to fly to the South Coast.

“The tourists prefer flying directly to their destinations rather than to Nairobi, then connect to Mombasa before going by road,” she said.

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