Hotels at the Coast are banking on high holiday patronage to sail into the new year with ease after weathering a tough 2017.
Even those that experienced low guest numbers during the better part of the year in Watamu and Malindi in Kilifi County, are now enjoying booming business, thanks to both local and international tourists who have poured in for the annual celebrations.
In Watamu town, Garoda Beach Resort resident manager Daniel Mwita said the hotel has been packed to capacity since December 23.
He said festive bookings had been bolstered by a rise in visitor numbers from Italy, which is the major market for Watamu and Malindi holiday destinations.
“Our hotel will be busy up to January 7, when some local holidaymakers will be returning to work, while some foreign guests will be flying back to Italy,” he said.
Of the 100 per cent bookings, he said 75 per cent were guests from Italy while the rest were from various parts of the country.
Mr Mwita said 2018 could be a good year for tourism if the war of words between the National Super Alliance and Jubilee leaders is brought to an end.
At the South Coast, Diani Reef Beach Resort managing director Bobby Kamani said the hotel is full up to January 4.
It has 100 per cent occupancy, 80 per cent of whom are locals from Nairobi, Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret and Kiambu.
The hotelier said the rest of the guests were from United Kingdom, India, China and a few African countries.
“This festive season was special to us. We were fully booked during Christmas and now during New Year celebrations. Kenyan tourists have come in droves to relax in Diani,” he said.
The surge in domestic holidaymakers has been attributed to Madaraka Express trains, which offer cheaper transport.
Tourists from Nairobi also prefer to travel by rail since it takes a shorter time, about five hours, to arrive in Mombasa, compared with buses which take eight hours.
Mr Kamani told the Sunday Nation that local airlines operating direct flights between Nairobi and Ukunda had also boosted domestic tourism in Diani.
He said airlines which fly to Ukunda include budget carrier Jambojet, Air Kenya, Fly540, Safarilink, Silverstone and Fly SAX.
“Air connectivity between Nairobi and Ukunda has made it easier for Kenyans to fly to Diani for holiday,” he added.
Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort general manager Siddharth Sathe said the hotel would be full during the New Year holiday, with 90 per cent of the visitors being local tourists.
“Our hotel is fully booked up to January 2. Many domestic tourists came to Mombasa to celebrate Christmas and New Year,” he said.
Mr Sathe added that the hotel underwent beautification for guests to stay in a good environment.
“We will treat our guests with mouth-watering delicacies, drinks and entertainment,” he added.
Baobab Beach Resort general manager Silvester Mbandi said the hotel was fully booked up to January 5.
He said 70 per cent of the guests were locals while the rest were from Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Poland and Italy.
“We thank local airlines for flying domestic tourists to Diani from Nairobi. Jambojet alone operates three direct flights from Nairobi to Ukunda,” he added.
PrideInn Group managing director Hasnain Noorani said PrideInn Paradise Beach Resort in Shanzu, Mombasa, had been busy due to tourists from Nairobi.
He added that the majority of visitors were families who took advantage of the school break to travel with their children.
The hotel focuses on domestic tourists to encourage more Kenyans to go on holiday, he said.
“Our hotel is popular with locals from Nairobi and other parts of the country. We have an aqua park specifically for children. We also offer menus with traditional items,” he said.
The PrideInn Group boss said the Madaraka Express had been a game changer as it had opened up Mombasa to Nairobi.
“The affordable train fares and shorter travel period have motivated many locals from upcountry to visit Mombasa for holiday,” he added.
Sun Africa Hotels chief executive officer Mohamed Hersi said Nyali Sun Africa Beach Hotel would enjoy brisk business during the New Year festivities, with the bulk of guests being from Nairobi.
He thanked local tourists for supporting the hotel industry in Mombasa, adding that there was a need for Kenyans to tour their country for holidays.