DEATH ROBS KENYA’S TOURISM INDUSTRY OF A LEADING SECTORAL ADVOCATE
(Posted 25th November 2017)
I find it hard to describe the shock I felt when, while in Lagos for the Nigeria Travel Week, news came in that my friend ‘Pinky‘ had died as a result of a motor accident.
Our friendship went back to the 1970’s when I, then a brand new two year wonder, met him in Nairobi with other members of his family at the New Stanley Hotel. I was often invited by him to join him and at times his family for a meal at the Saphir Restaurant located in the Ambassador Hotel they owned and managed.
We got on famously well and our friendship grew over the decades as we both advanced in the industry, he at the family business Sarova Hotels and I eventually across the border in Uganda where I had ventured into consultancy and pursued my academic career.
I mourned with ‘Pinky‘ when other members of his family passed, notably his brother – also in a car accident in Addis Ababa – and ‘Chani’ Vohra whose funeral I was able to attend.
As a result was ‘Pinky‘ catapulted into the CEO position of Sarova Hotels, in his own words not something he was very keen on given the circumstances how the vacancy at the top arose.
We periodically interacted on industry matters, especially when Kenya’s tourism industry went into decline and he was called upon to serve on various task forces and panels to produce recommendations how best a turnaround could be accomplished.
‘Pinky‘ would ask candid questions and got equally candid answers as neither of us believed in sugar coating when at the time the very survival of Kenya’s tourism was at stake.
We last met at the Magical Kenya Travel Expo in September during the opening night dinner and agreed that when next in Nairobi we must get together for a dinner or even for a weekend in Nakuru or Mombasa or in fact any other of the Sarova properties.
That is not going to happen now, not in this lifetime, as ‘Pinky‘ succumbed to injuries sustained when the car he was travelling in rolled, him being the only casualty.
Just weeks after another friend passed in a paramotor crash at Queen Elizabeth National Park has 2017 been marked throughout by losses of this kind, making it an ‘Annus Horribilis‘ in the truest sense of the word.
Another friend gone, myself on the other side of the continent and hence missing the opportunity to pay my last respects and condole his family, other mutual friends and the staff of Sarova Hotels – the shock news, while already several hours old, continue to leave me gutted, lost for words and lost for an explanation, why such a promising life should be cut short by cruel fate.
Farewell therefore it is from the distance to J.S. aka ‘Pinky‘, gone too soon and missed by this and many more friends but mostly by his family.
Sincere condolences and my deepest sympathy to them and to all the Sarova Hotels staff.