World's billionaires choose Kenya for holiday

The Hotels at the Coast are fully booked by local and international tourists as the guests wait for Christmas and new year celebration. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Some of the top business tycoons in the world are among those holidaying at the coast as the tourism sector records booming business.

The last two years saw tourist numbers drop as a result of lockdowns and travel restrictions occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some of the tycoons, whose identities remain confidential, arrived in Malindi aboard chartered aircraft from Italy.

Kenya Coast Tourists Association Chief Executive Julius Owino confirmed that more than 400 Italian tourists have arrived in Malindi for the festive in the past two weeks.

Malindi is popular with Italians who flock to it every season apart from the past two years when Covid-19 restrictions locked them out.

Local tourists have also not been left behind with most hotels being full to capacity.

A tour operator, Hassan Ali, said online booking had made things easy for many travellers.

"These days, technology has made it easy to book a hotel of your choice as long as you have money," said Hassan.

Hassan who works with Ketty Tours said tourism has started recovering. Most of the visitors travel to game parks and other tourist sites before settling in their hotels.

Fully booked hotels during the festive season include Pride Inn Paradise Beach Hotel, Neptune Beach Hotel Mombasa, Swahili Beach Hotel, Leopard Beach Hotel, Diani Reef and Madina Palm in Watamu.

Visitors love their beautiful white sandy beaches that offer breathtaking view.

Besides the beaches, other attractions are water sports, scuba diving, paddling boats, snorkelling and windsurfing. Some of the visitors come for safaris while others just want a peaceful environment away from the hustle and bustle of most cities.

The tourist arrivals have triggered many activities in the past two months; including the opening of cottages, villas, restaurants and nightclubs.

Life along the beaches is now exciting as tourists flock to various public beaches which were a no-go zone at the peak of the pandemic.

Beach boys are back and so are commercial sex workers.

According to Owino, five-star hotels are popular with newlyweds.

A spot check at Swahili Beach revealed that the guests were mostly young couples on honeymoon who had taken advantage of some special packages.

The Standard team found several enjoying the sea breeze near the swimming pool, while others walked along the beaches.

Beach parties have also become a hit and it is one of the things the hotels are capitalising on.

"Yes we will have a beach party on Christmas Day and New Year," said Alex Toriani who runs Key Funzi Hotel in Funzi Island. Alex, a Swiss, says the hotel has a special facility for open beach weddings overlooking Wasini island.

A Belgium tourist, Everly Heyman, who was visiting Kenya for the first time said she had enjoyed seeing the big five at a close range in Tsavo National Park.

Heyman, who stayed in Diani, said Kenya is the best tourist destination in the world as one can shuttle between the hotel and Shimba hills game park.

"It was a very exciting experience and when I go back to Belgium, I will market Kenya to my friends to come to Kenya for holiday," she said.

Owino confirmed that Ugandan tour operators who recently visited the Coast region on an exchange programme admitted Kenya has the best to offer because of the services in the hotels.

He said Kenyans also visited Uganda last month and had the opportunity to sample Gorilla sightseeing.

Owino said most of the Ugandan tourists went to South Coast after touring Fort Jesus and Mombasa port.

Owino said tourist numbers could shoot up if the government allows more direct flights to Mombasa and Malindi.

He noted that the launch of direct flights from Mombasa to Dubai last week will see more tourists visit Kenya from the Middle East.

Last Friday, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua launched Kenya Airways' direct flight to Dubai from Moi International Airport.

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