Kenya: Veteran Hotelier and Playwright Kuldip Sondhi Dies

The tourism and the arts sectors have been thrown into mourning following the death of experienced hotelier and award-winning playwright, Kuldip Sondhi. He was 97.

The Reef Hotels proprietor, who has been at the forefront of fighting for tourism matters in his yesteryears, died early Monday morning.

The accomplished writer and poet has written at least 12 short stories and 17 plays, which have been published in various anthologies, in the past 17 years.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala described the late Kuldip as a passionate hotelier and very outspoken about sustainable growth of tourism in the Kenyan coast.

Mr Balala who took to Twitter to mourn, said he had lost his mentor.

"I've learnt with deep shock and disbelief of the passing on of Mzee Kuldip Sondhi.

"Mzee Kuldip was my mentor in the tourism industry. It is a gift to have had a mentor, a friend and a father figure like Mzee Kuldip," CS Balala said.

Kenya Tourism Federation Chairman Mohammed Hersi while eulogising Kuldip on his Facebook page remembered how he (Kuldip) held his hands and taught him matters tourism.

"This morning waking up to the sad news of the demise of Mzee Kuldip Sondhi. My second father, my father in tourism. This is one man who believed in Kenya and fondly talked about it," he said in the post.

Mr Hersi sang praises of Mzee Sondhi, who was also a trustee at the Little Theatre Club.

The late hotelier had also served as a nominated councillor in the defunct Mombasa Municipal Council.

Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO) chairperson Mombasa Monicah Solanki KATO said that Mombasa has lost a hero.

"He has over the years fought many battles for the good of Tourism in Mombasa. He was still a Trustee of the Kenya Coast Tourism Association. It is a big loss for all of us, we will miss him. The last time I met him was at the Little Theatre, as we were enjoying a comedy," Ms Solanki said.

The late Kuldip will also be remembered for the support he gave towards the revival of the Little Theatre Club that was recently opened.

Kenya Hotelkeepers and Caterers Association Executive member Dr Sam Ikwaye remembered the late Kuldip as an icon.

"Yes, an icon is gone. A long-time investor who was passionate about tourism in the region. He always advocated for the good of the industry and had a vision for the bigger picture. Even in old age, he continued to work on his business with honesty and bravery," Dr Ikwaye told the

With all his investments, Dr Ikwaye noted that Mzee Kuldip would have secured a quiet and comfortable retirement with solid financial security but with his love for people, especially those he worked with, he kept his vision and commitments.

"I had an opportunity to meet him in February this year and his frustration was clear as to how Covid-19 and containment measures had affected the industry," he added.

Flamingo Beach Hotel General Manager Victor Shitakha said the late Kuldip was a great and wise man, passionate for the industry and life in general. "I remember his writing and his plays, mostly watched at the Little Theatre. I wish to celebrate his life and all that he gave," he stated.

Former Little Theatre Club Chairman and Research Scientist Dr Peter Odote said it was sad indeed to have lost Mzee Kuldip.

He remembered him as a pillar of strength in playwriting having started with award-winning radio plays and a trustee of Little theatre club, he lived the part.

"When I adopted his award-winning play on BBC "Beach Access" in 1997 for the stage at Little Theatre Club, his appetite for writing stage plays grew and he wrote about 10 plays for the theatre. With a background in aeronautical engineering, it is amazing how he juggled his life through the hospitality industry and the arts," Dr Odote said.

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