Italian billionaire Flavio Briatore has made a U-turn over the sale of his beach hotel in Malindi following reduced tourist arrivals at the coastal town.
The wealthy Italian said on Thursday that he has opted not to sell the Sh30,000- a- night Lion in the Sun Resort, expecting a rebound in tourist arrivals.
While tourism is booming in other coastal towns, Malindi is yet to recover from effects of terrorism attacks that caused a big drop in foreign visitor arrivals after Western nations issued travel advisories.
Lion in the Sun Resort remained shut for weeks last year following sluggish bookings, forcing the former Formula One boss to consider divesting.
“Although, I will be forced to close down businesses if things do not change, but we hope tourism will pick [up] and impact positively on Malindi’s economy,” he said.
He reckoned that the poor state of roads and garbage disposal has made Malindi unattractive to tourists.
“For the last seven years, I have not seen any improvement of pot-holed roads and garbage clearing that has littered the town and beach,” he added. The Lion in the Sun hotel, which is located about 400 metres from Malindi Marine Park, has a seasonal outdoor pool, spa centre and is famed for hosting international celebrities such as Naomi Campbell, an English model and actress.
In 2010, the Lion in the Sun Spa was named “The world’s best spa”. For spas, the Tatler awards are the equivalent of the ‘Oscar’ awards common in the film sector, and are just as highly coveted.
Mr Briatore, who was once a Formula One racing teams manager (most recently with Renault F1), has a projected net worth of $150 million (Sh16 billion).
He is said to be a high spender and frequently checked into his luxurious Lion in The Sun hotel with fellow billionaires.
Billionaires Resort, is another hotel owned by Mr Briatore. It is a luxury serviced apartment hotel in Malindi, common with high-end travellers.
Malindi is favoured by Italian tourists whose arrivals to Kenya are yet to pick up, hurting hotel business in the town.
Mr Briatore said the delayed expansion of Malindi Airport was also hurting tourism.