Malindi airport earmarked for Sh1.5 billion upgrade

A section of the Malindi airport
A section of the Malindi airport. PHOTO/FILE
The Malindi airport will undergo a major upgrade as the Kenyan government seeks to open up north coast attractions to foreign tourists.

According to the outgoing Transport principal secretary Irungu Nyakera, part of the Sh1.5 billion that has been allocated to the project in the 2017/2018 budget will be used to acquire a 200 acre piece of land for the extension of the airport’s runway.

“The government requires 200 acres of land for the extension of the runway. We have earmarked Sh1.5 billion for land acquisition and construction of the runway,” Mr Nyakera said.

The airport’s runway will be extended from the current 1.5km to 2.5km to enable the airfield to handle bigger commercial aircraft, which is expected to enhance tourism in Malindi.

“When the runway is extended the airport will be handling direct flights from Europe and increase international tourist arrivals from Italy and other markets,” he said.

The coastal region, which is renowned for its warm beaches, is shaping up as one of the next fronts in the on-going flagship infrastructure development.

Last year, the government allocated Sh300 million for compensation of landowners in Malindi after 25 hectares of land was acquired for airport expansion.

The State spent another Sh300 million on phase one of the airport’s expansion. The project included expansion of the airport’s apron, construction of a car park and a 7.5km security fence.

Malindi Airport currently handles domestic flights and this is cited as a major stumbling block to tourism recovery campaigns as international holidaymakers travel for longer hours before reaching the north coast.

As a result, tourists are forced to fly from Europe to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi before boarding domestic flights to Moi International Airport in Mombasa. They later travel by road for about three hours to Malindi.

Other works in the project include expansion of the taxiway, control tower, as well as fire and meteorological stations.

Malindi Airport manager Walter Agong recently said that the facility can only handle aircraft with a capacity of 90 passengers.

He said extension of the runway would enable it to accommodate bigger aircraft such as the Boeing 737-600 series with a capacity of 150 passengers.

The Malindi airport, which handled 150,000 passengers in 2015, is expected to handle 400,000 passengers annually by 2020.

The expansion of the airport is a key part of the government’s efforts to revive and promote tourism in Malindi and Watamu in Kilifi County.

Meanwhile, the Isiolo International Airport has undergone a massive upgrade that has transformed it into the third largest airfield in Kenya after JKIA and the Moi International Airport.

The Isiolo airport, which is set to begin its operations, will serve as a gateway to regional trade with neighbouring Ethiopia and South Sudan.