Malindi, Watamu bounce back as festive season begins

Thursday, December 5th, 2019 00:00 |
Tourists from Italy at Billionaires Beach Resort, Malindi, last weekend. Photo/PD/Monica Kagia

Monica Kagia

The tourism sector in North Coast has started recording booming business as the festive season begins, with hotels reporting 80 per cent bookings.  

In Malindi and Watamu, tourism stakeholders were optimistic foreign tourism arrivals would increase further this season following the key infrastructure put in place by the government and aggressive marketing by stakeholders. 

Maureen Awuor, chairperson of Kenya Hotel Keepers and Caterers Association (North Coast branch) says bookings in most of the hotels stood at about  80 per cent last weekend.

“Italian investors are getting the confidence to invest due to the efforts by the government. Some have been renovating their facilities ahead of the festive season,’’ she says. 

Many Kenyan families locked out of South Coast and Mombasa hotels by early bookers have opted to spend their holidays in the North Coast.  So far, most tourists are locals, but in Watamu, some resorts have a high number of foreigners. “Most of the hotels did not close as before, they remained open  during low season,” Awuor said.  

The number of Italian tourists is also rising, expected to hit 80,000 arrivals this year and probably 100,000 next year,  a number last seen in 2005. In 2018, about  65,000 Italians visited the region after years of decline in numbers due to the economic crisis in Italy and insecurity fears  in the North Coast  destination.

So far, tourism stakeholders say the tourism recovery process is bearing fruit, thanks also to efforts by the Malindi Progressive Welfare Association (Mpaa), the national and county governments and Kenya Tourism Board.

Since March this year, Mpaa has been organising monthly clean up efforts on public roads and beaches to  help bring back the lost glory to Malindi.

A spot check in Malindi and Watamu last weekend showed that some hotels were fully occupied. “We are happy the season has picked up well and foreign tourists are flocking in,” said  Sabina Vivaldi of Cozy Point Homes.

Speaking at the Billionaire’s Resort in the company of her friends who had come for holiday five of them for the first time, Sabina said the Italian market has re-opened. She said  Italian tour operators had regained confidence in the destination and was sure the industry would boom again. 

“Malindi is slowly coming up, though some roads were recently damaged by heavy rains.  However, we have promises and confirmations from the authorities that the roads will be fixed soon,’’ she said.

Miriam Meliddo, a tourist from Italy who first visited last year came back last weekend with her friends and went straight to the Billionaire Beach Resort.  Mellido, who will be celebrating her birthday tomorrow, said Malindi is a perfect destination.

Carlo Zoni, the operation manager of Billionaire Resort (owned by Italian Billionaire Flavio Briatore) called on Nairobi residents to enjoy their holidays in the North  Coast.  

Pasquale Tirito, chairman of Jacaranda Beach Resort who owns three hotels near Watamu, said the availability of  flights  linking Western Europe, Italy and Kenya has made it easier for tourists to travel easily using different carriers.

“Although the season has picked up well,  expansion of the Malindi International airport is yet to be realised. The road linking Casuarina and Watamu has seen some improvement, but more is needed,” he said.

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