The construction of a major road in Kilifi County key to the revival of tourism has begun.
Tarmacking of the 117km Malindi-Sala Gate road, at a cost of ShKsh4.1 billion, brings hope to tourism stakeholders as it links Malindi seaside resort town to Tsavo East National in Taita Taveta County.
Most of the tourists visiting to Malindi use the road to tour Tsavo for game drives as it is a shorter route than the Malindi-Mombasa Highway.
President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the construction of the road in September last year and is expected to be completed in October 2019.
The tarmacking of the road is among projects being implemented by the government through the Kenya Rural Roads Authority’s 10,000 low volume seal roads programme.
Infrastructure Principal Secretary John Mosonik said the construction of the road has started, adding that a 10km section would have been tarmacked by end of February.
The construction of the road, he added, is facing a challenge from the expansion of Malindi airport.
“The airport’s runway is being extended by a kilometre and it will cut through a section of the Malindi-Sala Gate road,” he said.
“As a result, a 10km diversion must be created to link the road with the Malindi-Garsen road and connect it to a junction at Ganda,” he added.
Mr Mosonik said when the tarmacking of the road is completed, it would boost tourism in Malindi and Watamu tourist towns.
Hoteliers and tour operators are upbeat that the construction of the Malindi-Sala Gate Road would uplift tourism in Kilifi and Taita Taveta Counties.
Tourism players had since independence lobbied successive governments to tarmac the road, but nothing materialized.
As a result of the pathetic condition of the road, tourists take between three and four hours to travel from Malindi to Tsavo for game viewing.
Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) Kilifi County Branch Chairman, Philip Chai, supported the government’s move to tarmac the Malindi-Sala Gate road, saying the project would boost tourism in North Coast.
Mr Chai explained that when the construction of the road is completed, it would take less than two hours for wildlife enthusiasts to travel from Malindi to Tsavo East.
“We also expect the road to boost domestic tourism as local tourists from Nairobi will take a short time to drive from Voi to Malindi rather the longer route to Mombasa,” he said.