Hosting the Rich and Famous in Kenya

From medical doctor to hospitality host to the rich and famous, the story of Alfajiri Villas owner Dr Fabrizi Molinaro provides an interesting case study on marketing exclusivity in Kenya. By Des Langkilde.

Alfajiri, meaning ‘dawn‘ in Swahili, is inappropriately named. I would have named it ‘Mbinguni‘ (heaven) as the facilities and service offered here transcend the boundaries of mere mortal experience.

Alfajiri Villas is where the rich and famous come to hide from the paparazzi, relax in pampered privacy, and take leisurely strolls along Kenya’s hidden coastal jewel – Diani Beach.

 Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Kenya
This photo of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie was taken on April 19, 2005 at Diani Beach, Kenya and confirmed the couple’s relationship. Credit: Big Australia

Rumour has it that this is where super couple ‘Brangelina’ (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) spent 5-nights in 2005 with Jolie’s son Maddox, then 3. Alfajiri’s owner Dr Fabrizio Molinaro simply smiles knowingly when asked, but he does acknowledge that Rowan Atkinson was one of his first celebrity guests.

Privacy is clearly an important factor to Alfajiri’s reputation as a luxurious hideaway on the Kenya Coast, as no signage is evident anywhere along the only tarred road through Ukunda town.

“Alfajiri Villas can only be booked on an exclusive use basis, even in the case of 2 pax only, as each villa has its own private pool and private massage area,” says Fabrizio.

This exclusivity comes at a price that befits its rich and famous status. A couple of hundred USD per person, per night, covers your own villa with a personal butler and private a la carte dining – served al fresco or in your villa – your choice, as is the choice of cuisine. All meals are included, as are all drinks, including local and imported alcohol brands. Snorkeling and Gym facilities are available at a nearby resort and are also included, as are daily massages. A courtesy vehicle is also available for beach excursions or shopping in Ukunda.

Alfajiri  Garden Villa lounge

So how did a medical doctor get to own and operate such a successful celebrity venue?

“I qualified as a doctor in Italy at the insistence of my father but never ended up practicing in that profession. At the time, military conscription was compulsory, so after completing my university degree, I accepted a one year contract as manager of a leading safari company in Kenya dealing with the Italian market – not so much to avoid the army, but I guess that was in the back of my mind at the time,‘ recalls Fabrizio.

“I fell in love with the African bush, with Kenya, and with my wife Marica – in that order. Marica is an interior designer and it was her passion that resulted in us purchasing our first property in Diani. As you know, Italians have very large extended families, and with our two daughters the original house became too small, so we built two villas with the same design: our Villa and then the Cliff Villa, which in the beginning we only used for friends and relatives. When the neighbouring property came up for sale, we bought it and built the Garden and Beach villas. We subsequently built Galdessa Safari Camp in Tsavo East National park, so now offer both beach and bush experiences.

“When we opened Alfajiri in 2000, I already had 18 years experience in the hospitality business as I managed Intra Safaris limited, a DMC / safari company that was a leader in the Italian market, so we already knew a lot about personal service and what guests want when they take a holiday.

“The celebrity hosting reputation came about by default rather than planned intention. As with anyone, celebrities love to share their holiday experience with friends, and we soon started getting more bookings. Then word got around and we started getting bookings from their fans, who wanted to sleep in the same bed at their idol had,” Fabrizio concludes with a knowing smile.

Each of the Alfajiri villas has its own distinctive charm and appeal:

The Cliff Villa caters for up to 8 guests accommodated in 4 bedrooms. Although the size and interior decor in the rooms are not the same, the Cliff Villa would not be suitable for 4 couples, but is ideal for families. The turret suite has a 270- degree view of the sea and must rate as one of the top five most romantic bedrooms ever. Then there are two double rooms on the first floor, each with its own private veranda, and 1 twin room on the ground floor.

Alfajiri Cliff Villa Master Bedroom
Alfajiri Cliff Villa Master Bedroom

The Garden Villa can accommodate up to 10 guests in 4 large luxuriously appointed bedrooms (3 double rooms and 1 twin), each with its own large bathrooms, and all rooms overlook the Indian Ocean. All rooms are the same size but have different interior decoration, and is ideal for 4 couples travelling together.

Alfajiri Garden Villa swimming pool
Alfajiri Garden Villa pool

The Beach Villa has 2 double rooms on the ground floor and 1 twin room on the first floor, each equipped with air conditioners and mosquito nets. An additional double room on the first floor is not air conditioned, but does have a fan and mosquito net. This villa is ideal for families with children or for honeymoon couples looking for the ultimate in privacy and service.

Alfajiri Beach Villa swimming pool
Alfajiri Beach Villa pool

So, in conclusion, if there’s anything to be learned from Fabrizio’s story it is this: host somebody with celebrity status, provide the best service possible, keep it secret and let the media speculate. Then wait for his or her friends to book, knowing that their privacy is eassured. If only it were that simple!

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