Diani resort reopens in defiance of current tourism trends


(Posted 02nd April 2015)

Considering the challenges Kenya’s coastal tourism industry is currently facing, can the re-opening, after major renovations and modernization, of the Jacaranda Indian Ocean Beach Resort only be described as a leap of faith, counting on better times to return, anti-travel advisories to be toned down and charters from the UK and elsewhere to resume and offload their cargo of sun and fun seekers wanting to frolic on the award winning Diani beaches.

The resort opened with a bang last weekend when hosting all of Kenya’s Ambassadors and High Commissioners for a reception and gala dinner, who had gathered in Diani for their biannual conference. Feedback received from the newly appointed General Manager, Miss Ann Safari, sounded like the successful function set the tone for the way the resort intends to operate now that it is open again.

Ann, previously serving as Operations Manager at the Leopard Beach Resort & Spa before her latest appointment can look back at a rocket propelled career in the industry. In 2004, after completing her hospitality course, she joined the Sarova Whitesands Resort as a waitress and left in 2010 as Acting F&B Manager to join the Leisure Lodge as F&B Manager before moving to the Chui as the Leopard Beach is often affectionately called by their clientele.

The Indian Ocean Beach Resort was initially opened in 1992 and part of the now defunct Block Hotels but the owners of the Jacaranda Group eventually took back the resort and managed it directly before closing in late 2013 for renovations.

Set bank at the shores of the Indian Ocean, from which it draws its name, is the resort the last one along the Diani beach road and taking a stroll on the white sand beach or just swinging in a hammock, watching the surf break on the reef, is surely as relaxing as it comes. With the reopening task now complete do the proprietors, who also own and manage the Jacaranda Hotel in the Westlands area of Nairobi and the Lake Elementaita Camp in the Rift Valley, expect to recapture their market.

Diani has been boosted by the launch a few days ago of daily Jambojet flights from the international airport in Nairobi but there are also two daily services out of Wilson airport, one operated by Safarilink and the other one by Air Kenya. This allows for local and international tourists to bypass Mombasa and the inevitable crossing of the Likoni Channel and lengthy road transfer and get them into their resorts, after landing in Ukunda, within the space of between 10 and 20 minutes.

The Indian Ocean Beach Resort, as did other Diani based hotels, at the recent Sarit Centre Domestic Tourism Exhibition in Nairobi, all launched attractively priced Easter holiday packages. Tariffs are then dropping further for the upcoming low season during which the resort is in particular targeting the regional market tempting expatriates to take a trip to the Kenya coast and enjoy a hassle free break.

Jacaranda Group CEO Killian Lugwe, formerly General Manager at the Kampala Serena before moving to the Serena headoffice overseeing the Serena city hotels in the region, expressed his confidence in the future of the resort when he said: ‘The opening of Indian Ocean Beach Resort is reflective of our hope and belief that the tourism industry in Kenya is of vital importance and is being given the attention that it deserves by all those personally vested in its success. The entire focus of service at Indian Ocean Beach Resort will be the customer. No efforts will be spared to meet all requirements of our customers. The team spirit at the Indian Ocean Beach Resort will ensure that while the external customer is well looked after, the commitment to the internal customer, our employees will be high’.

A source close to the Kenya Tourism Board also expressed support for the reopened resort, saying that this should help to restore some confidence in the market that not all is doom and gloom and that there is business out there, especially in the wider region, ready to book coast holidays. Another regular source added ‘The lifting of Visa requirements for expatriates in Uganda and Rwanda should help the Kenya coast resorts to get some added business. We still lack direct flights from Entebbe but RwandAir is flying to Mombasa a few times a week and there are connections via Nairobi of course. The package prices are as good as they never before were and that should give people an incentive to come to the Kenya coast and no longer fly to Dubai or Johannesburg’.

More information about Destination Kenya can be accessed via www.magicalkenya.com