Tourism players in Kenya’s Western circuit have urged the government to fast track the upgrading of Kisumu International Airport to unlock the region’s tourism potential.
The Lake Victoria Tourism Association (LVTA) wants the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) to speed up the upgrading of the airport to enable it handle international flights.
LVTA Treasurer, Rashid Hussein, said the airport was closer to tourist hotspots such as the popular Maasai Mara National Reserve and the Kakamega Forest Reserve.
He says the airport’s potential has not been fully exploited despite being an international facility.
“KAA should finalise the upgrading of the airport so that it can accommodate international flights from overseas markets in a bid to uplift tourism in western region,” he said.
Mr Hussein explained that Kisumu is strategically positioned closer to more tourism attraction sites than Nairobi and Mombasa.
He called on the Kenya Tourism Board to market the western tourism circuit to international tourist source markets for the region to attract more international holidaymakers.
The airport’s manager, Joseph Okumu, said only 30 per cent of arrivals recorded at the facility were tourists.
He said: “The 3.3km runway is being strengthened and widened by 60 metres, which will allow us to accommodate more international flights.”
Once complete, he adds, the airport will be able to handle bigger aircraft such as the Boeing 777 and boost international tourist arrivals.
Mr Okumu pointed out that with modern facilities, the airport could meet the growing demand of international travellers to and from western Kenya.
Currently, the facility handles more than 400,000 passengers per year, a significant increase from the 250,000 it recorded before the expansion work began.
Other attractions in the western circuit include Mount Elgon National Park, Saiwa Swamp National park and Lake Victoria which is the largest lake in Africa and the second largest freshwater body in the world.
The expansion of Kisumu International Airport at a cost of $7.5 million was done in three phases.
The expansion of the airport was funded by the Kenyan government and the World Bank.
Since 2008, the main airport’s runway was extended from 2km to 3.3km while construction of the 1.35km taxiway and a new terminal was completed and commissioned in 2012.
The terminal has six immigration desks, eight check-in desks, lounges for first class and business class, a VIP lounge and 300 square metre of commercial area.
The airport which serves Kenya’s third largest city Kisumu currently handles mostly domestic flights.