How Italian pioneer of Kenyan tourism late Franco Rosso will be remembered

Following his extensive network of luxurious resorts along Kenya’s coast, the late Franco Rosso was recognized as the pioneer of tourism in Kenya.

The millionaire, who was born in Italy, died on March 27 at the age of 94 in Lugano, Switzerland. He visited East Africa with his wife and children on a family vacation in 1967 before falling in love with Kenya and embarking on a career in tourism.

His well-known resorts include the Coconut seaside resorts and the Diamonds Dream of Africa, both of which are unique seaside destinations popular with the wealthy.

Hotels owned

Rosso’s first hotel, Tropical Village, was built on Casuarina Beach, and it was followed by Diamonds Dream of Africa and the neighbouring Coconut and Malindi beach hotels. Sandies Malindi, his fourth property, was subsequently opened in 2018.

The Diamond Dream of Africa was honoured with World Travel Awards in 2021 and 2022. In 2012, it was also named Africa’s Leading Beach Hotel.

Diamonds Dream of Africa

The billionaire started his career as a travel agent after being drawn to the warmer weather on Kenyan beaches during the winter months in Europe.

Coconut seaside resorts

Rosso founded Planhotel Hospitality Group and Franco Rosso International, one of Italy’s top tour operators.

Rosso, in collaboration with a consortium of investors from New York, the United States, and South Africa, attempted to construct the multibillion-dollar ‘Palm Exotica’ skyscraper in Watamu Kilifi County in 2019.

Former Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala, however, halted the plans, claiming that the 61-story building should be constructed in Nairobi or Mombasa rather than Watamu.

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Surprisingly, the structure was supposed to house a 270-bed hotel, a shopping centre, and a nightclub. There were also plans for 180 serviced apartments, office suites, a meeting centre, and restaurants.

Palm Exotica, Africa’s highest hotel, is expected to cost Ksh28 billion. Rosso, on the other hand, distanced himself from the ambitious plan’s building on several occasions.

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