The family behind The Funzi Keys – STYLISH HOTEL 2015
When in December 2014 we approached the Funzi Keys we knew it would be the experience of a lifetime. It was a real piece of heaven. We are more than happy to introduce you our Stylish Hotel 2015 and the amazing family who stands behind the project.
How did it happen you decided to choose Kenya for your place in the world? As i remember from our conversations it was also your choice to come back to Kenya and to the hotel after studies and working experience abroad.
Alessandro Junior.: I’ve always loved the freedom in Kenya. You can start anything and be up and running in days. It gives an opening to inspiration and curiosity for doing/learning new things. In return this makes every day a new experience.
Indeed, I chose to come back after 14 months abroad. The hotel management school was more geared for a corporate environment. We are a small family run establishment. Therefore, work is done differently. I appreciate having learnt about the corporate environment, there are some very useful takeaways including protocol and precision. I am also grateful to my parents for giving me the opportunity to go abroad and work in Mexico. It was a wonderful experience and I also got a week to travel most of the East Coast seeing the Mayan Pyramids and other ancient structures.
You have to admit that the hotel industry is a tough business. While you were taking the decision to create the hotel, did You had any concerns is it a good idea? Did you plan to do it for living – as a business – or your parents had other jobs where they earned money?
Alessandro Jr.: Hotel industry is only tough if you lack passion. My parents were in the coffee export business and dreamt of creating what they always missed when on holidays. Making money was certainly not the driving force otherwise our cottages would not have become 120 to 200 m2 big.
Who is the customer of your offer? Is it an ideal place for families with children, as well as a romantic getaway for couples?
Alessandro Senior.: We cater for all. Our USP (unique selling points) are private beach and only 17 cottages along one km of beach facing romantic sunsets, where you wake up with the sea lapping your cottage to the sounds of birds. We are family run and cater for individual wishes. Special meals at special times for a toddler or a romantic beach dinner for honeymooners, perhaps breakfast on the sandbank with a bottle of champagne for an anniversary ?
We are very family/children friendly. This is combined with couples getaway as well. We have the only private beach in Kenya and therefore it is exclusive and tranquil.
What can you offer to your guests – as they have very different needs coming for holidays?
Alessandro Jr: Our customers are those looking to get away from the high tempo city/town life. The advent of the smart phone and apps etc. has been a blessing but it has also meant people spend less time with family and friends as they are constantly being expected to reply to emails/calls/messages and so forth. One of our core principles is to reduce stimulus on clients. For example there is no music. The only “music” one hears here are birds and waves.
We approach different groups in different ways. For example, if there are kids we look to get them into activities like canoeing. We like to go in groups. Myself, brother (Luciano) and sister (Cinzia). For adolescents who need more exercise I’ve done things like going on jogs with them on the main island or a stroll on the sandbank. Often they want to combine exercise with talking. Its an easy way to explore, talk and unwind. For couples we know they want to be “together”. Therefore, we make sure of this. Room service play hide and seek i.e. the clients never see them. We do special decor for their beach dinners for example when they are celebrating an anniversary/birthday or special arrangements in the room for proposals. I can give you an example: we setup the Jacuzzi for them just before they finished dinner. We made a flower path from the main house all the way to their Jacuzzi!
Where do your guests come from? Do you have a regular customers who have already visited your hotel a couple of times?
Alessandro Jr: The three biggest groups of clientele are as follows: English, Swiss and Belgians. Then we get a mix of many others including Kenyans. Yes, indeed we have regular repeat clients. Some come twice a year. If you love what we offer, then there are not many other options in the world.
What are Your inspiration for the restaurant’s menu? Do you lean on traditional cuisine with some international touches? Fresh ingredients? Your experiences and tastes you cannot forget from the places you visited?
Claudia: My inspiration spans over my life from first starting to cook and understanding blending. We wanted to veer away from the modern precooked microwave processed food, embracing farm fresh and sea fresh. No we do not lean on traditional cuisine. We create a unique dish from scratch with a modern natural presentation. Indeed we source the food personally and receive each batch as well. This ensures quality and a personal relationship with suppliers. They know our standards.
Your hotel is – let say a Little bit non-standard, for example You do not have the reception and glass in the windows – it all make it special – and personally I think worth visiting but where did that idea come from?
Alessandro Sr: It all came from missing them when we were tourists. A place where we could feel at home, one that one always feels like going back to. Wall to wall carpets, insulated by glass, air-conditioning, gold tabs, all things that have no meaning for us. We love thatch, the chirping of birds and water, fresh air, handmade roofs and the energy in the soil.
What are Your future plans for the hotel?
Alessandro Sr: Leave it as it is and maintain quality.
What would you recommend to your clients to explore in the area – something you think will be unforgettable?
Guests love visiting the nearby tidal sandbank. They love the nearby Ramisi river for birdlife, crocs and monkeys, our cattle and farm and mostly they love doing just nothing.
Do You like to travel and discover a new incredible places and hotels? Do they inspire you?
Alessandro Sr: We love many places but never looked to others for inspiration as we always feared becoming stereotype and creating repetitions and ending up like Hiltons.
What would you recommend – which 3 places you find the most worth visiting in Kenya?
Kenya is a fantastic vibrant country. We have the most versatile national parks and kilometers of white beaches. The great migration, thousands of flamingos flying by, cuddling an elephant orphan. Catch a marlin. Dream it – it’s there.