Concern has been raised over the historic town of Malindi losing international investment opportunities for high-end tourism due to poor infrastructure.
Mr Flavio Briatore, an Italian billionaire investor, said poor roads and lack of hygiene have made many investors reluctant to set up tourism projects or encourage their friends to invest in the resort town.
Mr Briatore, who owns Lion in the Sun Resort and the Billionaires Resort in Malindi, said the government has taken too long to fix roads and clean-up the town.
Speaking to journalists at his Billionaire Resort, where he had toured for New Year holiday, he said: “Some of the roads are full of potholes and the dumpsite is located at Causorina near beach hotels, making tourists uncomfortable,” he said.
He said both the county and national governments have neglected the resort town, thereby scaring away investors.
However, experts say Malindi is losing its glory due to urbanisation, making investors shift their focus to Watamu and Mayungu, which are still undeveloped.
The Billionaire’s Resort in known to host world class celebrities, businessmen and politicians, whom Mr Briatore said had expressed interest in investing in the town, but were discouraged by the poor infrastructure.
Among the celebrities who have visited the Billionaire’s Resort are US President Donald Trump’s adviser Tom Barack, Federation Internationale de l'Automobile president Jean Todt, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, British supermodel Naomi Campbell, among others.
Speaking while launching the county online tourism marketing platform last year, Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi said the devolved unit will this year allocate funds for upgrading infrastructure in Malindi.
He assured investors that the roads would be fixed, the beach cleaned and the dumpsite relocated.
For his part, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala, who also attended the event in Mtwapa, said Malindi is an important destination that deserves to be well taken care of so that it can attract tourists.
He said the national government is committed to completing the expansion of Malindi airport.
Mr Briatore said Malindi should have a connection flight from Italy, and challenged Kenya Airways to introduce a direct flight from Italy to Nairobi.
“Tourists should be able to connect to Malindi without delays at the Jomo Kenyatta international Airport,” he said, adding: "It is unfortunate that tourists have to travel for over 17 hours to Malindi yet it is a destination that could take only six hours from Italy.”
Mr Briatore also hinted that he was ready to relocate the dumpsite from Casuarina to Kakuyuni, and even brought in Italian cleaners, but he did not get cooperation from the government.