BY MATHIAS RINGA
Plans are underway for the Ukunda Airstrip in Kwale County to be renamed Diani Airport in a bid to uplift travel and tourism industry in the seaside resort town of Diani.
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) says the airstrip in the South Coast will be renamed Diani Airport from April 25.
The renaming of the airstrip to Diani Airport would help turn around tourism in the holiday destination of Diani, given its global award-winning status.
Last year, Diani Beach was voted Africa’s leading beach destination for the sixth time in a row by the World Travel Awards.
From 2013 to 2018, Diani beach has been scooping the prestigious global award after overcoming fierce competition from other African beach destinations such as Sharm El Sheikh from Egypt, Cape Town from South Africa and Zanzibar.
The Kenya’s best beach has over the years been retaining the global award due its stunningly beautiful white-sand, the crystal clear turquoise waters, lush green surroundings and clean environment.
Tourism players have welcomed the renaming of Ukunda Airstrip to Diani Airport, saying the move would be a game changer to the industry in the South Coast.
Diani Reef Beach Resort managing director Bobby Kamani said the renaming of the airstrip to Diani Airport would uplift tourism in the South Coast since “Diani“ has gained global popularity.
The hotelier noted that the renaming of the airstrip would boost the Diani Destination brand and help attract more international holidaymakers to the resort town.
“Over the years, there has been confusion between Ukunda Airstrip and Diani Beach. The Diani Airport will allow domestic and international travellers to be able to relate the airport to the destination,” Mr Kamani added.
“A lot of guests end up getting confused after visiting resorts on Diani beach, whereas landing takes place at Ukunda, which is a few minutes away from the holiday hotspot.
“This comes after months of lobbying by stakeholders from Diani, and we thank the government and KCAA for its plans to rename the airstrip to Diani Airport.”
The conversion of the airstrip to an airport is already underway with the commissioning of a mobile airport control tower worth Sh150 million.