Watamu has consistently featured as one of Africa’s top beach vacation hideaways – however, has also received the reputation within Kenya of being one of the more pricey alternatives for a long retreat.
That’s changing. A rejuvenated tourism industry coupled with a heightened awareness of the options with regards to local tourism, means that more and more people are searching further than usual for destinations that offer quality, favorable pricing and that satisfy their thirst for adventure and the unknown.
Watamu (Sweet People) is exquisite. Set conveniently between Mombasa and another popular destination, Malindi, it almost feels untouched; less people, less hectic, more beautiful.
The One Hotel is located 20 minutes away from Malindi airport and Ainsley Duncombe, the CEO of African Resort International says that location was absolutely key when the decision to lock down the venue was made: “ We wanted to find a resort that had some unique features and provided a great beach holiday experience in a location that was easily accessible by both car and plane…”
The project itself has been ongoing since 2014 and the hotel held its soft opening at the tail end of last December – a step that hopefully signaled its intentions for 2017 and beyond. Ainsley says, “it’s been a long time coming, but we believe the wait has been worth it…our first guests tell us they loved the experience over Christmas…”
An experience that wasn’t without its fair share of anxiety – not only how to impress with a baby you’ve seen from concept to inception over the course of two years but also in a market as crowded as Kenya’s coastal tourism market: “ it gave us a few sleepless nights as we wanted everything to be perfect. The biggest concern was the food at the hotel… just because we liked it didn’t mean the guests would. Fortunately, our concerns were misplaced and we had nothing to worry about. The guests loved the dining experience and said they genuinely couldn’t wait to come back.”
It’s hard to imagine that Watamu could ever possibly be a sink or swim prospect. For those seeking out activity, it offers snorkeling and diving which are almost unmatched when coupled with the gorgeous temperate climate and the ocean fresh breeze.
The One Hotel understands the need to get away but appreciates that Kenyans are also looking to draw on tangible vacations that offer a little more familiarity, and romance. The key demographic would be families looking for a beach holiday experience in a five-star hotel, but lovers are also a major target given the mood and general vibe of the place.
And it seems the attention to detail is paying off: “…one of the tour operators told us that for a new hotel they have never had so many happy clients, which was a real compliment to us as it’s our first hotel venture. We put a lot of effort into the smaller details to make sure things are just right. Word of mouth has been our main focus of marketing for launch but we expect social media to also play an integral role in bringing in clients from further away…”
And what about Ainsley – what does he see in the future of investment in this country? He is an entrepreneur, born in the UK who has spent most of his years living in various parts of the world including the US, Europe and the Middle East. His ambition has led him to Kenya for now and Watamu has been the first port of call. He emphasizes: “Africa is the final frontier and Kenya more importantly, is a key component, I think that more and more people around the world are waking up to the fact that Kenya is a hub and the gateway to Africa. So yes, I would say Kenya is very important hence the reason I decided to leave the UAE after 9 years and relocate here as I truly believe in the opportunity in Kenya as a whole and in particular, the beautiful coastal areas.
There is clearly something we are doing right! We just need to harness it more than we currently are.
The One Hotel, Watamu is open for business – for more on what to expect, visit the website.