Sultan Palace boss says Coastal region to drive holiday homes business

BY VICTOR ADAR For Liu Tiancai, Nairobi is not so much a tourist mecca as Mombasa. The youthful Chong Qing University graduate is wowed by the idea of coral villas and apartments that they are developing in Kikambala, Kilifi County. While many companies are trying to defray the risks by venturing into various counties, the Sultan Palace general manager expects to stay at the beach-front trying to get a piece of the pie as demand for holiday homes continue to rise. “It’s a different market,” he says. “I spent three years at a construction site to get to understand how it works. You have to know what is important. So, more is about the experience in real estate. I understood what good quality is, and strict building standards.” You might think that is unusual bravery. But that is what birthed the headstrong nature of their projects. The manager truly motivates, inspires, entices, and pushes those with purchasing power to own a piece of a holiday paradise. He says they have sold 198 units in general, which is about 59.3%. Every industry has its skeletons. But this one is really on the path of growth, making gains at the coast. The developments include 50 coral stone beach houses, 16 villas and 132 condos. He expects to make gains from their first phase by end of year. These three types of units aptly named as Diamond, Ruby and Emirates are steadfastly selling out that only two condos are remaining for sale. Ruby, which comprises of semi-detached three bedrooms for example, is flying for between Sh30 to Sh40 million, two-bedroom long rise apartments from their Emirates Condos costs from Sh17 million to Sh21 million. They have Swahili and Arabic blend, which is also fuelling high demand. “We see a lot of potential,” he says confidently. “Generally, we believe holiday homes market has big potential. We talk about holidays. The idea that jumps on our mind is beach. That’s why we choose Coast as our priority. So we will still be in Mombasa for several more years. Someone would prefer Nyali, Mtwapa but to us those areas are a bit crowded, but from Kikambala… mmhh! That is a nice place. Again it is quiet not like the other parts of North Coast yet not too far from nearby facilities. We will continue being at the Coast. But Nairobi is also our priority hotspot. If we think it is fine then it is just about time.” As property markets continue to expand, it is the beachfront areas of the country that will attract the wealthiest in town. The concept is popular in countries like USA and Dubai where most investors eyeing more lucrative ventures like holiday homes too have identified coastal regions as the place to pour money. Citing China, Tiancai says high-end developments usually put parking in basement and leave the whole ground open. This kind of concept is taking root in Kenya – try to picture latest buildings in Riverside, or Rwaka. “They have a lot of space. So if you have kids there is a lot of space for them to run around. We have big water park, residence club, which has a restaurant; the gym, conference…of course we also have big gardens so you will find a place to relax. You can let kids play there. Then we believe people like the soft garden, nice ocean view. It has been very well recognised by the market. It received awards by International Property Awards. We also won awards during the Mombasa and Nairobi Homes expo,” he says. Holiday homes is the only area, so it seems, that is yet to experience Uber moment as the market is still big and competition is actually not there. But there is a sign of changing trends. The company behind Sultan Palace is Jianhxi Xinyu Real Estate Development Limited, one of the major developers in Jiangxi. After researching well the markets, red-hot opportunity came through, and it was called Sultan Palace. “Because of the history of Mombasa,” Tiancai says of how the name “Sultan Palace” was arrived at, adding that: “Those who built it (the coastlines) were called the Sultans. We want them (buyers) to have experience like the Sultans. Those who have bought like the project, they would like to spend their holidays there. And some of them are talking about their retirement. They can still rent them out when they are not living there.” In China, they have delved in projects like the Nanchang Hot Springs City, Chareau Lafite, Jingdong International Garden, Qinyu Garden and Universal Peak Plaza. Pegged on the potential in their homeland, the firm has spread their tentacles now doing a mix of hybrid developments in Africa as well. Apart from Kenyan Sultan development, they also boast of premier projects in Botswana – Francis Town International Airport, Namibia and South Africa. “We are from China,” he says. “The company started the real estate business in 1983 and during the past 30 years we’ve done more than 50 projects in China… But we get skilled people locally to do the Swahili architects.” With all these high standards, the beach retreat valued at Sh5 billion features a 1,000 square metre waterpark, and boasts of play areas with water slides, tunnels as well as splash pads all aimed at allowing kids to have fun. It is actually five kilometres from the Vipingo Ridge Golf course, and offers convenient access to the much-needed facilities both in Nyali and bamburi through the Mombasa-Malindi highway. Phase two will include a five-star hotel. The idea of bringing the five star hotel chain is because the developers want high management level and experience. “We have a good product but we also need good management. We are most likely to sign a deal with the Taj (from India). We also have others; in any case we don’t close this we are talking with other chains from Dubai. So anytime they’ll just bring us the available resources, then we take off.”

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