By: MATHIAS RINGA
The ferry crisis at the Likoni crossing channel has dealt a blow to tourism and other economic activities in the Diani resort town.
According to Kenya Association of Tour Operators (Kato) Coast branch chairman Monika Solanki, some tourists from Diani have been missing return flights after being delayed at the crossing for hours.
Since last Friday, she added, tourists from Diani who wanted to fly back home had been facing difficulties in getting to Mombasa’s Moi International Airport in time after being delayed for between two to three hours.
The Kato official said international tourists heading to Diani for holidays are being frustrated by the frequent delays at the channel.
“After the just concluded Magical Kenya Travel Expo, many tourists are interested in going to Diani for leisure.
“Sadly, the ferry crisis is making both local and international visitors avoid travelling to the South Coast due to the delays,” she explained.
Ms Solanki added that the delays at the crossing channel have also adversely affected safaris to Shimba Hills National Reserve.
Wildlife enthusiasts heading to Shimba Hills for game drives, she added, had ended up losing precious hours to watch animals after being held up at the crossing for hours.
BIG BLOW TO EVENTS
Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) Coast executive officer Sam Ikwaye said the Likoni transport crisis had dealt a big blow to meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions tourism in Diani.
The KAHC official said delays are slowing down the government and the private sector’s efforts to revive the tourism sector in the South Coast.
“The government spent a lot of money in bringing international tour operators and travel agents to Diani during the recent travel show.
“How can we revive tourism in Kwale County if local and international tourists face challenges of crossing over to Diani for holidays?” he asked.
Mr Ikwaye explained that conference organisers were shunning holding meetings in Diani in the wake of the transport woes at the Likoni crossing.
Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) Mombasa branch executive officer James Kitavi said the ferry crisis had affected economic activities in the South Coast.
He said transporters were incurring huge loses running to millions of shillings due to frequent delays in transportation of goods from Mombasa to Diani.
“Heavy duty trucks are delayed for longer hours at the channel hampering the movement of cargo from the port of Mombasa to the South Coast,” he said.
“Hotels and businesses get affected as it takes ages for food, vegetables and fruits to be delivered in time,” he added.
SACK KFS MANAGING DIRECTOR
To address the crisis at the channel, the tourism players and the chamber officials have demanded the sacking of Kenya Ferry Services managing director Musa Hassan Musa.
They said the KFS boss had failed to address transport challenges at the crossing, adding that the government should appoint a new MD to tackle the ferry woes.
When reached for comment, the Mr Musa defended himself against the accusations saying the problem are as a result of the ferries being old.
“Ferry users will continue to condemn me but the fact of the matter is that the vessels are too old resulting to frequent breakdowns.
“To address the challenges, we urgently require two new ferries,” he said.
Mr Musa also attributed the delays to an increase in the number of vehicles crossing the channel daily.