Hotels, lodges and camps are expected to receive more guests when the standard gauge railway passenger train services between Mombasa and Nairobi are introduced next week.
Tourism is anticipated to be a major beneficiary of the Sh327 billion standard gauge railway project given that rail transport is cheaper than air transport.
The railway line links Mombasa which is the country’s tourism hub with the capital city Nairobi availing affordable transport to both local and international tourists yearning for leisure and safari.
The railway would also open up the Tsavo West and East national parks since wildlife enthusiasts from either Mombasa or Nairobi will disembark at Mtito Andei and Voi and get into the parks for game drives.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to launch the passenger train services at the marshaling yard in Mombasa on May 31.
Apart from Mombasa and Nairobi benefiting from more visitors, towns of Voi, Mariakani, Mtito Andei, Emali, Athi River and Kibwezi are also expected to enjoy tourism boom since they are near national parks.
Both local and international visitors will have the opportunity now to travel by rail, air and road for holidays in either at the Coast or Nairobi as well as in the camps and lodges in the parks.
Kenya Coast Tourism Association chairman Mohamed Hersi said he expects tourism to improve in the region from July as a result of the passenger train services to be inaugurated next week.
He noted that since rail transport is affordable than air transport, both local and international tourists would be travelling from Nairobi to Mombasa for holiday.
He added that tourists would travel by rail to Mombasa and other seaside resort towns of Diani, Malindi, Watamu and Kilifi for vacation and help revive tourism.
“Efficient, safe, and affordable mode of transport is key for sustainable tourism. Therefore, the standard gauge railway is a game changer to the hospitality industry,” he explained.
Diani Reef Beach Resort managing director Bobby Kamani says he expects an increase of tourists in the South Coast when the passenger train services are launched next week.
However, he called on the government to speed up the Dongo Kundu bypass project for tourists who will be arriving by train to Mombasa to travel to Diani without passing through the Likoni channel.
“We expect the number of tourists visiting Diani to increase. But tourism could rebound if the Dongo Kundu bypass construction is fast-tracked,” he said.
Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers Coast branch executive officer Sam Ikwaye said since travelling between Mombasa and Nairobi will take between four and five hours, people from the two cities will have the opportunity to travel for weekend vacations.
On the other hand, Mr Ikwaye said the passenger train services would boost visitor numbers in the national parks.
He noted that wildlife enthusiasts from both Mombasa and Nairobi would travel by train and access the Tsavo West National Park through the Mtito Andei station.
Wildlife lovers heading to Tsavo East National Park, he added, will travel from Mombasa or Nairobi up to Voi and access the park for game drives.
One passenger train will be operating daily trips from Mombasa to Nairobi and return from Nairobi to Mombasa.
According to Kenya Railways (KR) Managing Director, Atanas Maina, the frequencies might be reviewed depending on passenger demand.
The train will carry 1,200 passengers from the coastal resort city to Nairobi and make a return trip with the same passenger capacity.
Mr Maina said the KR would announce the fares before the flagging off of the inaugural train trip on May 31.
He noted that the corporation would also announce the train operation schedule to the public ahead of the inauguration next week.
Travellers will have a choice of boarding the train on First and Economy Class while Premier Business Class will be introduced in December this year.