Kenya’s tourism is ready for high-end tourists and investors following the addition of a Sh500 million resort.
Cabinet Secretary for East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism Phyllis Kandie toured the Billionaires Resort, Malindi, owned by Italian billionaire Flavio Briatore on Sunday evening.
After being shown the imposing resort with an international Casino and restaurant that took Mr Briatore three years to complete, Mrs Kandie declared: “Kenya is now ready to host high-end tourists and investors”.
Eyes of the mighty
The billionaire took her on a tour of the apartments, all with a view of the Malindi National Marine Park beach, before a dinner preceded by a press conference with a battery of Italian journalists.
The resort scores a first for Kenya in the tourism sector, having attracted the eyes of the mighty, including business mogul and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Mr Fernando Alonso, Formula One rally champion and a close friend of Briatore’s, who has enjoyed many holidays in Malindi at the Lion in the Sun — another Briatore property — has also acquired a piece of the resort.
The beach resort in the range of others in Italy under the Billionaires Resorts tag and owned by Mr Briatore comprises 25 apartments, each of which was sold for one million euro.
They share a large swimming pool in a surrounding covered by green coconut palms and other plants selected by expert gardeners.
Fully furnished, the apartments will be under the owners and could be on offer for holiday to families and friends depending on the owners’ decision and choice of guests.
According to the manager of the Lion in the Sun, Mr Philip Chai, the Restaurant, International Class Casino and sports facilities adjacent to the Billionaires Resort will provide basic services with prices in the range of high class facilities in Malindi and Nairobi.
Local and international chefs will provide the food. Some are known to have worked in the best restaurants in the islands of Sardinia in the islands of Sicily in Italy and in luxury ships and yachts used by billionaires.
Mrs Kandie praised Mr Briatore for showing confidence in Kenya as a base for lucrative investment in holiday related business.
She expressed confidence that the various billionaire owners of sections of the resort would hugely transform the calibre of guests to Malindi and attract more high end investors and tourists.
This was bound boast Kenya’ image as an investment base and destination for well paying tourists, she said.
“I wish to take this chance to thank you, Mr Briatore, on my behalf and that of the government of Kenya,” the minister said, adding that the decision by the investor to build the resort in Malindi and the acquisition of all the units by wealthy local and international owners had made Malindi famous across the world.
The minister assured investors and tourists that Kenya was a safe destination and the few incidents linked to terrorism should not deter serious profit and comfort-minded tourists and investors from venturing into the country.
Mrs Kandie assured Malindi investors that their grievances, including the need to ensure that the resort was clean, the expansion of the Malindi Airport to allow direct flights from Italy and the repair of the Malindi-Mombasa highway would all be addressed.
She promised to open discussions with Kenya Airways to re-launch direct flights from Malindi to Italy through Rome and Milan so as to ease movement of the Italian tourists to Kenya.
Mr Briatore and the head of Malindi’s sub-Italian embassy, Mr Marco Vancini, had sought to have KQ resume the direct flights to stop the many hours tourists wasted through flight connections.
The two who held private meetings with the minister also sought to have the growing number of beach operators, who are at times accused of harassing tourists, controlled.
The minister said the central government intended to launch a program partnering with the Kilifi County government to host beach operators in designated zones.
Mrs Kandie gave the assurance that all tourists would be provided with security and guided to avoid zones where they could be exposed to attacks.
“We have ensured that all tourists are safe by providing those involved in various excursions with police escort,” said the tourism Cabinet secretary.
She said the opening of establishments such as the Billionaires Resort placed a challenge ton the country to ensure that old and upcoming resorts were regulated through high class local and international standardisation rules.
She also unveiled a diversity plans to promote conference tourism and avoid too much dependence on beach and safari holidays.
Regarding a question by the Italian media as to how Kenya dealt with the negative publicity frequently published in the Italian media even when the security situation in Kenya was good, the minister promised to establish a liaison desk in Italy to respond to such negative reports.
She also assured investors in Malindi that roads would be repaired and garbage collected within the next few weeks to ensure they enjoyed their Christmas and New Year holidays.
Mr Briatore has during past interviews confirmed that nearly all the units at the Resort has been bought by some of his friends and some of them are “very wealthy people who love Malindi”.
He was also quoted as disclosing that some of the units were bought by people who had never been to Kenya, but who did so “because they trust me”.
The Billionaires is a resort of its kind in Africa and will target offer of high-class services “to those who deserve and want them”, said Mr. Briatore.