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Malindi tourism banks on KQ planned flights to Rome

By Philip Mwakio | April 9th 2021
Kenya Airways aircraft at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi. March 8th,2021. [Elvis Ogina, Standard] .

Plans by Kenya Airways (KQ) to resume direct flights to Rome, Italy in June have given hoteliers in the touristic town of Malindi a new ray of hope.

Yesterday, hospitality players said the move by the national carrier will bolster efforts to revive the tourism sector in Malindi, Kilifi County, which until mid-2000 was the preferred destination for Italians.

In the 1960s, Malindi carved a niche as the ideal resort town for the Italian tourists, which saw it brimming with restaurants, delis, gelato shops and pizzerias.

The relationship between Italy and Kenya was, however, cemented by the construction of the Rome-run Broglio Space Centre in Malindi. But in 2008 a slump began to happen with an estimated 4,000 Italians who lived in the town migrating back to their country. Most of the estimated 30,000 Italians who visited the town stopped.

Traders and tourism trend analysts in the Coast attribute the slump to Italy's 2008 financial crash and kidnappings that were blamed on Al Shabaab.

Pride Inn Group staff do aerobics at the Pride Inn Paradise Beach Resort Convention Centre and Spa during the hotel's reopening after the first partial lockdown in 2020. [Omondi Onyango,Standard]

Yesterday, Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers, Malindi and Watamu region chairperson Maureen Awuor, said KQ's announcement could not have come at a better time.

"We are currently at zero occupancies. The latest presidential directive locking down Nairobi, Narok, Kiambu, Machakos and Nakuru just days to Easter festivities robbed us of the much-needed lifeline that the industry needed to continue staying afloat," Awuor said.

KQ had on Monday said it was monitoring the increase of frequencies to destinations as more jurisdictions open up their airspaces and ease travel restrictions. The national carrier suspended flights to Rome on April 30, 2020, after the Italian government placed the whole country on lockdown due to Covid-19.

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At the same time, players in the sector want the government to speed up airport upgrade works at Malindi International Airport.

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