Harrison Kivisu and Walker Mwandoto @PeopleDailyKe
Major Coast hotels are registering 100 per cent bookings for Christmas and New Year celebrations as local and international visitors flock the tourist destination for the festivities.
Most of the hotels and resorts in Mombasa are fully booked and stakeholders are upbeat the situation will last until mid-January. And it’s not just the lure of the sumptuous coastal cuisines and the pristine sandy beaches that is drawing in the numbers; many of the hotels have offered sweet deals to domestic visitors.
Not surprisingly, the management of the Standard Gauge Railway announced earlier this month that the Nairobi to Mombasa service was fully booked throughout December. In the North Coast, hoteliers are also upbeat over the recovery of the sector as they have started registering arrivals of domestic and international tourists this festive season.
Italian tourists are expected to make a grand return to the Coast following the end election crisis. Kenya Hotelkeepers and Caterers Association chairman, Phillip Chai, says tourists have been increasing since the political tension slowed down following the swearing in of President Kenyatta last month.
He said many hotels in Mtwapa, Kikambala, Kilifi, Watamu, Malindi and Mambrui have received bookings from both local and international tourists from various Western European countries.
“Tourist hotels in Watamu and Malindi and the Coast region in general will be busy as international tourists have started flocking in because peace has returned to the country since President Uhuru took over,” he said.
Chair said domestic tourist arrivals also went up following the onset of school holidays, the holding of several conferences and the looming Christmas and New Year festivities.
Rising arrivals of foreign tourists is also due to the increase of Chartered international aircraft ferrying tourists from Western European countries such as Germany, England, Italy and Poland to Mombasa.
“We are happy for our hotels, which have been empty since April when the low season started. The July-September high season flopped because of fears over the General Election, but now that the elections are over the tourists are coming,” he said.
Chai appealed to Opposition leaders to soften their hardline political stand for peace to prevail for the development of the tourist sector and the economy. The major tourist attraction remains Mombasa and Diani in the South Coast, where hotels will be recording 100 per cent occupancy.
Those in Watamu and parts of Malindi will record at least 50 per cent occupancy, with some clocking between 80 and 100 per cent bookings. Mombasa PrideInn’s Paradise Beach Resort general manager Mohamed Omar said tourists’ confidence in Kenya has increased following the end of the electioneering period.
Addressing the media during the lighting of a Christmas tree at the hotel, Omar said the hotel is fully booked for Christmas and New Year celebrations, with the majority of visitors coming from upcountry.
He credited the rise in numbers to improved security and the school holidays that have enabled families to head for the Coast. “Bookings for the festive season are in top gear, especially after the government addressed insecurity in Mombasa.
Some hotels will be full from even beyond New Year,” Omar said. Malindi Airport Traveller’s Beach Resort sales and Marketing Manager Wafula Waswa also expressed hope that the sector will keep the momentum even after New Year if the calm enjoyed in Mombasa is sustained.
Guido Bertoni, general manager of Garado Beach Resorts, said they were already eyeing other destinations to attract more tourists, especially during the low season that starts in May next year. Hotel owners have also called for the expansion of Malindi Airport to allow larger flights from Europe to land in the region.
Watamu is a tourist favourite destination given its renowned beaches. Bertoni said tourists from Germany, Switzerland, Austria and France are often discouraged by the lack of an international airport in Malindi.
Roberto Macri, a former Italian consulate in Malindi who is now the general manager of Seven Islands Resort in Watamu, said investors shifted to Watamu because it’s safe, the beaches are clean and people can walk freely. Watamu has over 21 hotels, which are all in operation during this festive season.