18 February 2018

Kenya: Tourism Surges in Watamu as Politics Subside

Hotels in the seaside town of Watamu in Kilifi County are doing booming business following a sharp rise in the number of international visitors.

According to the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) Coast branch executive officer, Mr Sam Ikwaye, hotels in Watamu have an occupancy of 80 per cent, with almost all tourists being foreign, compared with 30 per cent occupancy in the same period last year.

He attributed the boom to calm enjoyed in the area and efforts by hotel-owners to market the town in European markets. The official said Europe's winter season had also contributed to the good fortunes as visitors are escaping the biting cold to soak up the sun on the town's sandy beaches.

"Since 2014, tourism in Watamu and Malindi hit a low ebb, with few tourist arrivals," he said.

"To overcome the drought, hotel owners from Watamu marketed the destination overseas. Their efforts are paying off," he noted.

To address the low season challenge, where hotels in Malindi and Watamu sometimes close down, Mr Ikwaye called on the government to fast-track expansion of Malindi Airport.

He said this would enable it to receive direct international flights from Europe and help boost hotel occupancy throughout the year.

Direct flights would spare tourists the inconvenience of travelling by road from Mombasa, after arriving in Nairobi on eight-hour long flights from Europe.

Garoda Beach Resort manager Daniel Mwita said the hotel was full after tourists from Italy arrived last week. He said that since last month they have been enjoying 90 per cent occupancy, compared with 30 per cent in the same period last year.

"Due to political uncertainty last year, the hotel had few foreign guests. But since the situation has normalised, visitor numbers have increased," he said.

Jacaranda Beach Resort managing director Philemon Mwavala said the Watamu hotel had 80 per cent guest numbers, compared with 40 per cent in the same period last year.

Other hotels enjoying a boom include Aquarius Club Resort, Watamu, and Voi Safari Lodge in Tsavo East National Park. Kenya Coast Tourism Association chairman Victor Shitakha said hotels in Mombasa were averaging 50 per cent occupancy, mainly from conference and holiday tourism.


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