You own some of the biggest hotels in Kenya, when did you move to Kenya as an investor?
I moved to Kenya in 1995, after selling my property in Zanzibar. I started with my first hotel in 2005, Eden Rock, then later Jacaranda, and thenJumbo. However, I have been in the tourism business for about 40 years now.
Why did you move from Zanzibar and, especially why to Kenya?
Zanzibar is a good place, but very limited to only the beaches. Kenya has something that is not easy to find in other nations.
The Maasai culture, the safaris and parks, the beaches and beautiful geographical sites and animals.
If you want to go for a safari in Zanzibar, you have only Ngorongoro; South Africa is only good for Safari. Kenya has more to offer.
As an investor compare the two countries.
Kenya is very unique, but it still does not believe very much in tourism. When I went to Zanzibar, in three months, the government quickly constructed the road, installed power and the rest, but in Kenya, I had to bring, including power, roads and water supply in the area myself.
I am not complaining, I am a business person, but the truth is that the country doesn’t do much to attract investors into the industry.
Share some of your best memories in the tourism industry.
It was 1996 when I organised the Pope’s travel to Nairobi. I have also been to 108 countries in the world.
What challenges do you face being in this line of business?
Of all the challenges, this pandemic has been the worst. In Watamu, it’s not just about me, but this is a community, which depends on the hotel industry for income, so the community has had the hardest time.
There are not much alternatives and the county government did not have a plan for all these people.
As one of the biggest investors in Watamu, are you involved in any projects to give back to the community?
Yes, I built Jacaranda Primary School for the community. Construction works began in 2011, and the project was completed in 2015. The school has about 500 children right now.
I also constructed a community church in 2017, St Peter’s ACK Church and started a community water project, Digirikanyi water project in Mbaraka Chembe so that the community has sufficient water supply.
Plans are also in place to construct a community dispensary.
What are you doing to attract local tourist?
We have spent a lot money on Covid-19 tests and ensured safety standards are followed.
We have been forced to reduced prices, and so the quality of service will have to reduce too, which is bad for the hotel.