(eTN) - The recent introduction of VIP services for tourist vehicles to obtain priority boarding for instance on transfers from or to the airport or on a tight schedule leaving for safaris, has been widely hailed as progress and a step long overdue by sections of coast's tourism stakeholders.
However, the demand by the ferry operators for a three-month upfront payment of Kenya Shillings 166,000, or about US$2,000, is now seen as an obstacle to, in particular, smaller tour companies, which would prefer a âpay as you goâ fee to be paid on the spot rather than having to fork out major money upfront.
A fee of 1,200 Kenya shillings, or about US$15 per trip, has been proposed by tour operators' representatives, but it was rejected by Kenya Ferry Services, prompting an appeal to government to compel the ferry operators to review their stand and make the fast-track option more user friendly. The Kenya Ferry Services CEO claimed to have been surprised by the request for fees per use, as, in his words, quoted in local Kenyan media, the company had only recently reduced the prepayment requirements from 6 months to 3 months and no further reduction would, or could, be considered for VIP treatment in a point blank âpay or get lostâ attitude common for parastatal monopolists.
This prompted safari operators to protest even more, saying that they have no issue with paying for extra services but only questioned the need to prepay several months in advance, when an on-the-spot payment could just as well meet the financial requirements of preferential service levels. In fact, added comments attributed to the ferry CEO that ânormalâ services would suffice just as well as all ferry users were served âwithout delayâ caused a string of comments from safari operators and other ferry users, most of them unfit for reproduction.
The ferry service has in the past attracted severe criticism over docking accidents and stalled ferries mid-stream, when crossing from the island of Mombasa to the southern coast. Planning for a highway bypass from the international airport is at an advanced stage, bringing relief in the future to, in particular, the tourism sector, which can then avoid the bottle neck of the Likoni ferry and leave the service to local commuters or else use it only for the sightseeing purposes. Until that bypass, however, is ready, anyone who needs to go south of Mombasa will continue to depend on the ferry service and is subject to their terms and conditions, and also their failures, as and when those happen.