Malindi Tourism Woes.
I am sure many of you have seen comments by Billionaire Flavio Briatore regarding the state of Tourism in Malindi . He even went ahead to describe Malindi as stinky not that Mombasa is any better , well nothing is further from the truth and that should worry Kilifi County , a county that is close to my heart as my better half comes from here.
My good friend HE Governor Kingi unveiled his new cabinet and they are all men and women of real substance. I have No doubt they have what it takes to turn around the fortunes of Kilifi through tourism. Majority are people who are known to me personally and we are on first name basis. Please let us clean the town and get the basics out of the way. I believe you can do that and I will not belabour on this.
So what ails Malindi ?
1. Malindi was overly dependet on one source market , The Italian market . When Italians for any reason avoid Malindi then both Malindi & Watamu got affected. It’s high time Malindi Watamu including Kilifi started to target other source markets. We have investors like Roberto Marini of Ocean Beach Resort who is key in Domestic & Regional market.
2. The collapse of Imperial bank and later Chase bank hammered the last nail on struggling Malindi tourism. The collapse of these two rogue banks played a major role to send Malindi’s Tourism to ICU. This is one silent fact that no one talks about , it is water under the bridge but it did huge damage of course coupled with the non essential travel advisory that last lasted close to 2 years.
Malindi was host to many retirees and pensioners from Italy who will spend entire winter October to April every year in this coastal town. With the attractive close to obscene interest rates many opted to deposit their life savings in these two banks and then live off interest little did they know that they were being fattened for slaughter. With no source of income many opted to fly back home.
These long stayers contributed heavily to the success of Malindi Watamus tourism and their departure is being felt to date.
3. The media constant reporting moreso between 2005 until recently Malindi as Mafia town. It is wrong to tag any place in such a negative manner. It is individuals who choose to be thugs and act Mafia not an entire destination. It is obvious that no investor will be keen to put his money in such a destination.
Iti s high time the narrative is changed and it is already changing and I urge our media to help Malindi do that.
4. Lack of easy acess to Malindi . Our national carrier pulled out of Malindi later on JamboJet their sister low cost carrier stepped in . They took long to stabilise and we hope tbey continue to grow the frequencies. I am happy to note the immediate impact of Silverstone Airlines and we look forward to an even better frequency.
One thing that Governor Kingi should do is sleep, dream and walk is constant push to get the Kilifi airport runway extended. I will urge Governor Kingi to push this agenda strongly. He may not agree with national goverment on matters politics but business cuts across both divide.
To national goverment you may have issues with both Malindi and even Mombasa counties but mandate of national goverment must be delivered . Do not drag your foot to get projects done due to such differences . If you can do a brand new big airport in Isiolo why do you find it such a hercules task to extend a simple runway to allow bigger aircrafts to land in Malindi. We have very many direct Italian charters all waiting. We even have Ethiopian airlines who are more than willing to fly direct to Malindi. Sort out the squatters mess and extend the runway . I remind national goverment that business cuts across the divide. If anything how do you reach out to an area that feel disenfranchised economically , it’s simple fix the gaps .
We have witnessed the same where national classified roads in the heart of Mombasa taking ages to get fixed. Digo Road is only receiving attention now after many months of neglect. Can you imagine leaving Uhuru Highway in Nbi with potholes Why would you allow that on Kenyatta Avenue Digo Road through to Nyerere to Likoni ferry . This is the mandate of National goverment , Mombasa is our 2nd city. Please give her it’s due status.
Way Forward .
1. My Dear Bro Governor Kingi get the team to get down to work . Malindi is small and manageable . Make it clean and envy of many . Let no investor run away because of garbage. Let Briatore’s comment fire you and your team to get things fixed. Before he departs show him what you plan to do. I know you are known to him personally . Flavio is the Italian version of Richard Branson . We need him on our side.
2. To national goverment we now demand the extension of Malindi Airport runway without any further delay. Why would a government take two decades to carry out such a basic task ?
3. To Kilifi County , Italians LOVE Malindi Watamu . Reach out to them . Welcome them back. Encourage the pensioners and retirees to come back . Malaysia has done it under their programme dubbed ” Malaysia My 2nd Home “. The pensioners will attract their grown up children and relatives to chose Malindi. Reach out to many other western countries even in the Scandinavia countries to choose Malindi Watamu.
Choosing to stay in a villa is a personal choice and criminalizing it we must stop. The constant raids by authorities should not be allowed. What we should be doing is to streamline and regulate the villas. Globally we now have AirBnb will the authorities criminalise that ?
4. To Tourism players, please wake up . Lamenting on low levels of business while choosing to do nothing you’ll not move an inch. Save for 2 or 3 hotels the rest make no efforts to attend fairs both local regional & International. Learn from Diani who go to regional fair as Destination Diani . National & County goverments will fix the enablers the rest is for you to walk the last mile.
Malindi Watamu , Kilifi and yes Vipingo are world class destination. The Destination maybe down but certainly not out.
As always I choose to remain an optimist and may Malindi rise again like the proverbial bird Phoenix.
Kenya Tourism Federation