Coast hotels eye tourism boost from Barack Obama visit

Tourists relax at the Diani Reef Beach Resort. [File, Standard]
Investors at the Coast foresee a strong performance for the tourism sector in the second half of this year as a result of Barack Obama’s visit.

They are also upbeat that the International Association of Maritime Economists conference scheduled to be held in Kenya in September would further boost tourist numbers.

The conference will bring together maritime experts from over 40 countries to deliberate on issues in the sector including logistics, engineering and financing.

Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa Managing Director Bobby Kamani said President Obama’s previous visit and that of Pope Francis in 2015 boosted the numbers of international visitors at the Coast.

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He said the visits were a positive marketing story for the country, adding that they expect Obama’s stay to have the same impact.

Obama arrived in Kenya for a two-day visit on Sunday.

“The effects of this international interest in Kenya were, however, only felt a year later with arrivals into the country increasing,” said Mr Kamani.

“After Obama’s visit, the industry could see increased interest in Kenya from the international markets similar to the outcome of the 2015 visit, by seeing a positive variance in arrivals into the country in 2019.”

He said hotels in the South Coast are having between 50 and 60 per cent bed occupancy but expressed optimism that the numbers would improve from next month.

Many hotels in the region are sprucing up their facilities in anticipation of the high season, which starts in August.

In Diani, some hotels have struck deals with the Standard Gauge Railway management to offer affordable packages for domestic tourists arriving at the Coast.

Others in Kwale are banking on the expansion of the Ukunda airstrip and the ongoing construction of Dongo Kundu bypass, and the acquisition of new ferries to ease guest movements.

Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers Executive Officer Sam Ikwaye said most hotels have spent significantly on giving their facilities a facelift in anticipation of the peak season.

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