13-12-2022 by Freddie del Curatolo
Kenya's Independence Day bridge proved to be a good test case for Watamu, the hottest beach tourist destination in all of Africa's Indian Ocean.
Hotels recorded eighty-five percent occupancy, according to data compiled by malindikenya.net, and charters from Italy doubled the number of tourists who arrived for a vacation at Alpitour tour operator hotels. Added to these are international travelers, Italian and foreign "repeaters," and of course arrivals from Nairobi who are not only Kenyans but also many "expats" working for international organizations.
Here is composed the varied and promising picture of presences in the "pearl of the Indian Ocean" that from Christmas will be completed with those who have already been booking for months a villa or a bed&breakfast and other solutions also alternative to the classic resort.
"Kenya is really pulling - confirms Daniele Tiritò, General Manager of Jacaranda Resort - Since we reopened in July, the situation has been a continuous crescendo, with a full load of Italians in August and with a September and October and November that exceeded the numbers of 2018. This Jamhuri Day bridge was a very important test case. We exceeded 200 attendees, where the Italians were joined by many Kenyans. In this way we touched 87 percent occupancy. There is a positive climate throughout Watamu and we are even going for the holidays to "overbooking" with Christmas having more foreign presence and around New Year's Eve we go back to 50 percent with Europeans, not only Italians but also many French."
Real estate demand is also growing and the holiday season will be useful for many travelers to put pen to paper (and that's no joke) on buying property.
Also smiling are restaurateurs, who are gearing up for a full house, and suppliers of products of all kinds. One of the most important aspects of the life-saving nature of tourism on the Kenyan coast is the so-called "ancillary industry," the one that beyond the earnings of entrepreneurs and the guaranteed wages of tens of thousands of employees (and thus relative and numerous families) activates a whole range of small workers from the women who sell fruits and vegetables at the market (what we call "mama mboga" in Swahili) to transportation on two wheels (boda boda) and three (tuk tuk), from safaris to marine excursions, from local boutiques to vendors of handicrafts and souvenirs.
By now for the holiday season Watamu is "all sold out," despite flight prices that have risen by as much as 40 percent, confirming that those who want Kenya, the sea and warmth in winter, are not stopping at a few tens of euros more (fuel prices and recovery of the "red" contracted during the pandemic played a key role) and this year finally for the first time since 2019 there will be a nice holiday atmosphere that brings back the golden seasons of tourism in Kenya.
"What I had predicted came true," explains Roberto Lenzi, owner of the 7Island and Crystal Bay resorts, as well as the local Paparemo Beach, "Watamu gained because during the pandemic it gained the added value of Kenyans who learned to know and appreciate it, also thanks to the facilities that held on and did not close like we did. In addition, I think I have contributed by organizing events, festivals at 7Island and the inclusive beach party on Saturdays, which is attended by a diverse clientele. There is now a wonderful international air in Watamu, and if we had more flights from Nairobi there would be the possibility of accommodating even more people, further boosting attendance throughout Kilifi County. If we can't have the international airport, we would at least like a lot more connections. It will still be a 'sold out' and electrifying high season!"
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READ THE ARTICLE AND WATCH THE FINAL ON WATAMUKENYA.NET HERE
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Good, indeed very good news for the road network and tourism in Malindi and Watamu.