Italian billionaire and ex-Formula One boss Flavio Briatore has said he is seeking a buyer for one of his exclusive luxury beach hotels in Malindi amid low tourist numbers.
Mr Briatore, through his hotel manager Philip Chai, said the move to sell the Lion in the Sun resort was occasioned by dwindling holidaymakers over the years which has negatively impacted Malindi’s economy.
Speaking to journalists today, Mr Chai – who is also the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers North Coast branch chairman – said the exclusive resort is among six hotels that have remained closed in the county.
This is despite booming tourism in Watamu and Malindi resorts such as Kilili Baharini and Ocean beach among others following the end of the General Election.
“Tourism used to fare well in Malindi and its environs in the 1990s until the country experienced the 2007-2008 postelection violence and Al-Shabaab terror threats,” he said.
Mr Chai added that food stuff suppliers are also accruing losses since some stakeholders are unable to pay them due to bad business.
The Lion in the Sun, which first opened its doors in 2013, is located about 400 metres from Malindi Marine Park. It is opposite the Billionaire Beach Resort which is also owned by Mr Briatore.
Boasting a seasonal outdoor pool, spa centre and restaurant, it is famed for hosting international celebrities such as British supermodel Naomi Campbell and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
According to the hotel’s management, a night at the Lion in the Sun costs about €300 (about Sh36,336) depending on the season.
“Low bed occupancy and short term visitors are also the reason why most hotels in Malindi remained closed due to losses but in Watamu, Kilifi and Mtwapa the business is running,” added Mr Chai.
This isn’t the first time the billionaire has threatened to pull his investments from the town’s tourism industry.
Last year, he said he was mulling exiting Kenya’s hospitality industry due to bad infrastructure, heaping garbage and political squabbles in Malindi.
The delayed expansion of Malindi Airport, which is currently underway, was one of key issues singled out by the businessman as turning foreign investors away from the area.
However, the government is optimistic that the Sh5.6 billion expansion of the transport hub and tarmacking of the 110 kilometre Malindi-Sala road linking the town to Tsavo East National Park will revive tourism in the region.
Key CBK Indicative Exchange Rates used: €1 = Sh121.12