The tourism industry has welcomed the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) passenger and freight services.
Led by Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala, the stakeholders said they will come up with packaged tours to include tourists travelling by train.
Mr Balala told Weekend Business that during his tour of Europe to attend tourism trade fairs in London and Berlin, several inquiries on the SGR were made.
“It was clear that prior to its launch, the project had endeared itself to many would-be visitors to our destination,’’ he said.
He said the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) has started marketing the SGR service regionally and internationally.
“KTB has started to market this new service and we are optimistic to see large numbers of tourists taking train rides,’’ said the CS.
He added the train’s travel time, safety and pricing made it highly competitive.
Passengers on economy class are paying Sh700 for a one-way trip between Mombasa and Nairobi while those on first class part with Sh3,000.
The Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) also welcomed the development.
“This is a second initiative besides expansion of roads and airports to open up the Kenyan coast as a tourist destination. The region has suffered because accessibility was not fast-tracked to match the expected development,’’ said KAHC Coast branch Chief Executive Sam Ikwaye.
He added that the development of the port cruise terminal, whose work is expected to cost Sh300 million, together with the railway is expected to be a complete game changer
‘’The cost of travel has been a challenge to many aspiring visitors from within our borders. The aesthetic of the destination will also improve,’’ said Ikwaye.
Kenya Coast Tourist Association Chairman Mohamed Hersi said the freight service will boost efficiency of the Port of Mombasa as more cargo will be cleared from the facility in good time.
‘’When the Port of Mombasa was considered efficient in the early 80s, it handled between 250,000 and 500,000 containers. The rail haulage complemented road haulage but there was a time when El nino rains damaged the road network, leaving rail as the only way to evacuate cargo,’’ he said.
Kenya Safari Lodges & Hotels Chief Executive Victor Shitakha said the launch of the SGR service brings with it great opportunities.
‘’I see growth in movement of tourists and increased development. We are already positioning ourselves and developing packages for our Voi and Ngulia lodges, which are popular with wildlife enthusiasts,’’ he said.
Also supporting the new development, Panari Hotel Managing Director Patrick Marekia said the SGR is the best catalyst to domestic tourism growth. “Travel will be easier, convenient and cheaper. We intend to up our marketing game in potential areas along the SGR,” he said.