THE arrival of 320 tourists and a further 245 crew members onboard a cruise ship which anchored in Lamu has sent the strongest endorsement worldwide, that Kenya remains a major tourism destination.
Speaking after receiving the delegation in Lamu on Saturday, the Kenya Tourism Board Managing Director, Murithi Ndegwa, said it was a precursor of what will happen in future, as the region develops, following the Lamu port project.
It was a historic moment as the tourists on board MV Astor, anchored at the high seas and were taken to tender boats which cruised to the Lamu front, where hundreds of residents and officials from different organisations received them.
"This is definitely a shot in the arm for Kenya's tourism and this particular region, and we know, with the coming up of the port, more is yet to come. We urge our international partners to encourage other cruise liners to chose Lamu as a destination place, since there is a lot to be offered," he said.
The vessel which left Sychelles is set for Zanzibar and tomorrow , will dock at the port of Mombasa.
Mureithi noted that a committee, cruise Indian Ocean Association (CIOA), had been formed to promote cruise tourism in the region.
Lamu port project manager, Engineer Peter Oremo, noted that the construction of the port, that will have at least 35 berths, and a channel of 18metres deep, will in future see more cruise ships tour the region.
"The procurement is going on to identify the contractors, and we hope that by next month, we shall do the ground breaking, so that construction starts. This will be the biggest ports in the region and is set to improve infrastructure, without interfering with the cultural heritage of the area, since it will be a modern city outside Lamu," added Oremo.
Peter Schulze Isfort, a German official from KD Bereederung, that deals in product management shore excursions, said it was a good decision for them to chose Lamu, adding that they were seeking for new opportunities.
"It will be easier for us to reach other areas as well for the future, and I am sure some of our colleagues will follow us," he added.
The tourists, who were drawn from different parts of the world, received gifts including maps of Kenya, chains, CDs containing Lamu's history, beaded ornaments, brochures, flags etc from KTB's customs relations officer Cynthia Kinyeru.
They toured areas like the German post office, Mkunguni square, Lamu fort, museum, market and other areas, before leaving in the evening.
Some of the tourists interviewed said they were happy with the warm reception, cultural dances and the hospitality of the residents, and hoped to come back soon.