Kenyan leaders to launch Kisumu International Airport

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga will today launch the Kisumu International Airport after a major three year refurbishment project. The airport was earlier scheduled for the big launch in December last year, as reported on this blog but the launch was rescheduled to Thursday 2nd February 2012.

The airport's new facilities will include a modern apron, a terminal building and access roads as well as a car parking lot that can accommodate up to 1500 cars. The airport upgrade project was undertaken by the Chinese Overseas Engineering Company and was launched on July 25, 2009 by the same two leaders.

A section of the Kisumu International Airport
The upgrade project involved the extension of the airport runway from the previous 2km to 3.3km to accommodate larger aircraft. The airport will handle Boeing 767s, Airbus 310 and 300, bigger aircraft which could previously not land or take off on the shorter runway. The apron area is also being enlarged and this, according to the airport manager, will allow cargo aircraft to land in Kisumu.

With the upgrades, Kisumu is now open to international air traffic and the government will now be able to grant landing rights to international airlines which will have expressed an interest in servicing the route. Currently, Kisumu handles only domestic flights and is serviced by three domestic airlines. Kenya Airways has already deployed the Embraer 190 on the route with a capacity of 96 passengers.

Kisumu, pitfalls and opportunities
The launch of the Kisumu International Airport has definitely given the lakeside city an infrastructural boost but the hard part is in attracting business to the Kisumu Airport by airport management authorities and the city council authorities. Air traffic in Kenya is still very tourist driven and Kisumu still is not a major tourist attraction due to lack of investments in the region's tourism/hospitality infrastructure. The shores of the lakes are largely underdeveloped and the city has a few bed spaces hence cannot handle a major influx of tourists and visitors, or host major conferences or events without facing a crisis in hotel and accommodation. The city will need to put its act together.

Kisumu International Airport
In some way, the cart has come before the horse in Kisumu and investors in the region will have to work day and night to create new opportunities for the optimum utilization of the airport in order to boost growth in the city's and the wider Western Kenya region's economy. The expansion of the Kisumu Airport alone will not draw in investors and tourists but the city's value proposition will do that.

People will not just travel to Kisumu because there's an International Airport. Kisumu must offer potential investors and tourists some value be it in beautiful scenery, excellent hospitality facilities and quality services, more tour facilities beyond just "the Obama magic". Areas such as cruising on the lake are underexploited or unexplored altogether. Perhaps Kisumu can also draw some lessons from Bujumbura and Entebbe on building world class tourist resorts on lakeshores.

There are huge opportunities in hosting regional conferences for the larger East African community, conferences on Lake Victoria and other environmental causes, sports tourism, fish exports, flower farming but these will require concerted investment efforts by the Kisumu business community.

While the commercial potential of Kisumu's International Airport is currently very limited, the airport can make in innovative services what it lacks in passenger traffic and number of flights by investing in the retail side of the airport business through services such as airport Wifi, retail and duty free shops, restaurants, supermarkets for some extra ancillary revenue. Innovative thinking, both from the business community and the airport management will be key to making Kisumu a success.

Kisumu Entebbe Flights could be feasible
Kisumu sits at a strategic location in the East African Community and as Kenya's gateway to the Central Africa. This could work to its advantage if for example in the future, the EAC can establish some administrative functions in Kisumu. It's proximity to Uganda and Central Africa means Kisumu is a major transit city for many Ugandans, Rwandans , Burundians and Congolese and even tourists traveling to the Central Africa. Given the brisk business between Kisumu and Uganda and the large presence of the Ugandan community in Kisumu, Kisumu-Entebbe Flights could be feasible. Potential also exists in Kisumu-Mombasa non stop flights.

The Kenyan government is in an ongoing crash program to modernize its aviation infrastructure in order for the country to become even more competitive that's seen it launch various airport upgrade projects. For Kisumu, the task of building a competitive regional economy has just began.

Possible tourism products in Homa Bay County.

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2 Responses
  1. This was how it was with travel: one city gives you gifts, another robs you. One gives you the heart’s affections, the other destroys your soul. Cities and countries are as alive, as feeling, as fickle and uncertain as people. Their degrees of love and devotion are as varying as with any human relation. Just as one is good, another is bad.
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