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Duncan Muriuki, Executive Director of Maniago Travel & CruisesThe East African Standard, November 17, 2002:

Cruising to success
By Samwel Kere

Muriuki, 38, broke from the ordinary, and now caters for an exclusive clientele

“Money is hard to find” is perhaps one of the most well-worn cries of mankind through the ages. And people spend all their lives acquiring wealth only to find they are too old to enjoy it.

That’s why it is refreshing to meet a relatively young man who seems at peace with the amount of money he has.

Duncan Muriuki Kaguuru has achieved in thirty-eight years what most ordinary mortals don’t achieve in their lifetime, which is, owning a comfortably established company with a reputation that figuratively and literally spans the oceans of the world.

The company Muriuki co-owns with Ms Annabella Francescon, Maniago Travel and Cruises, deals with that most exclusive class of travellers who just want to cruise in the high seas. These people invariably happen to be the very wealthy.

The company also operates specialised travels within and outside Kenya which, Muriuki says, has established a highly loyal clientele.

The company’s head office is at the ABC Place, Waiyaki Way.

Maniago is a high-profile company, the only one in East Africa appointed as a representative for the leading luxury cruise lines in the world.

“Among them are Silverseas, Crystal Cruises, and Fred Olsen among others. It is extremely upmarket and elitist without being snobbish,” Muriuki says with rather humble simplicity.

Maniago has been in operation for 10 years now and is named after an Italian resort town, the place where Muriuki’s partner in the company originated.

Probably the closest thing to cruising most Kenyans far from the Coast have come is the view of Kate Winslett and Leornardo Di Caprio in James Cameron’s epic movie Titanic.

Besides that, cruises may remain a Disneyland imagination for most Kenyans. But nothing, Muriuki says, beats it.

“Nothing compares to a cruise; it is expensive but it remains the ultimate in travel. Seasoned travellers know it is the thing to do. A world-wide cruise takes in excess of a month. Mombasa to Cape Town takes a week.

“Our company specialises in sending people on cruises and customised safaris. We do ticketing and book hotels both in and outside Kenya. We send people even to the North Pole.

“Our client list reads like who is who in Kenya’s corporate sector. Maniago’s key strength is the personal touch in everything we do, every client’s needs are treated as unique.”

Sounds almost like a boast! The man talking is a Kenyan, actually born in Kirinyaga District. His parents, he says, gave him the perfect foundation to be a self-made man. For all we know, he might have been a totally different man today, perhaps just struggling to make ends meet like most Kenyans.

But a look at his well-cut coat, trouser, shirt and a tie might be a faint preview into who Muriuki actually is. Though he doesn’t exactly spell out his net worth, there is no doubt that he is not struggling. So how did he get that way?

Opportunities and the ability to get hold of them, is what he attributes it all to. “I had opportunities, I had dreams.

“When an opportunity presents itself, I grab it.” One such way was in school. Having determined earlier on that he wanted more for himself than his parents and neighbours had, Muriuki was determined to study well.

He entered into books with the zeal of a man who had already identified his destination and was going there by all means possible.

One can only imagine secondary school boys and their penchant for laziness, rude and crude behaviour and general lack of purpose.

To Muriuki Lenana School with its privileged facilities was a perfect opportunity to take the leap forward.

Young Muriuki already knew that he wanted to break free from the ordinary, to get away from the life of the crowd and to be his own man. “I knew I needed to score top grades because I’d set my goal.

“I had to take that step to stand out considering my family background was average.” He schooled in Kirinyaga for his primary education where he performed well then proceeded to Lenana High School. From Lenana to university is of course a short step, which he took without hesitation.

Muriuki, who describes himself as a man with an eye for opportunities, enrolled for a degree in marketing and went to work with Abercrombie & Kent (A&K) as a management trainee rising to position of General Manager.

After 11 years, he enrolled for an MBA in Strategic Management and Marketing at the University of Nairobi on a part-time basis. The rest are details.

He says Maniago has got to where it is for a number of reasons, the main one being the partnership in the ownership and management. “My partner has a lot of experience in travelling world-wide.

“Touring including safari designs and operation is my speciality. So we supplement each other. And. . . our staff are the other biggest asset.”

According to Muriuki, Kenya is an all-year travel destination, with Kilindini being one of the best ports in the world. “What we lack is a cruise terminal. If we had that, we would attract many more cruise lines.”

Muriuki believes that with good national management, Kenya would have no competition in the African continent. “As a tourist destination, not even South African or Egypt can match Kenya.”

But he would like to see the travel industry regulated, with hotels classified properly and a minimum charge for every class well spelt-out.

“There is need for some kind of an Act to stop underhand dealings. There is too much cut-throat competition which lowers the standards and dilutes the market.”

Muriuki is married, to Judy, with two children, and he confesses to being addicted to his family, with which he shares his success.

He believes the greatest sin a government can commit is to fail to educate its people, a sin which has been committed in Kenya blatantly.

Muriuki has one major goal in his sights: to see Maniago Travel move up to become the best travel and safari/cruise company in Africa.

His dream is to own a cruise line. And yet for all he has achieved, Muriuki is at a loss as to the meaning of success. “What is success? I don’t know. Definitely when you compare me to many of my peers, I’m way ahead.

“But there’s so much more that I want to do. I guess I just pursue my goals. But goals have to be pursued while enjoying life at the same time.”

The East African Standard, April 11, 2002:

Cruise ship docks with 300 tourists
By Philip Mwakio

A six-star cruise ship is expected to call at Lamu port today. MV Silver Whisper, owned by Silver Sea Cruises, was to sail out of Mombasa port last evening, after it brought in 300 tourists.

MV Silver Whispers, registered in the Bahamas, is a new vessel that entered the Indian Ocean waters eight months ago. Another 200 passengers embarked onto the ship for the Lamu voyage. As tour and taxi operators made roaring business, it was a dull day for several curio dealers who were shunned by the tourists.

“Mombasa is a turnaround point where cruisers disembark and embark. What we lack is a dedicated cruise ship handling terminal,’’ said Annabella Francescon, Maniago Travels Managing Director. Maniago’s Director, Mr Duncan Muriuki, said locals were also making bookings to go on cruise voyages.

Silver Whisper was making its second call to Mombasa in a fortnight, after sailing to the Seychelles and Zanzibar.

Also to sail into Mombasa harbour was a French naval vessel, Floreal. The French Consul in Mombasa, Mr Mi- chael Smewing, received the more than 100 navy sailors who are on a routine call for five days.

Meanwhile, Kenya’s tourism industry is showing signs of recovery from a three-year slump.

The Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association (MCTA) chairman, Mr Kuldip Sondhi, said the industry was expected to make Sh27.3 billion in foreign earnings this year compared to Sh23 billion in 2001.

Charter arrivals at Mombasa’s Moi International Airport in the first three months this year were 71,655 compared to 65,693.

Sondhi attributed the improvement to aggressive marketing by the Kenya Tourist Board, the Kenya Tourist Federation and the industry’s stakeholders.

He revealed that the two bodies have invited proprietors, managing directors and decision makers from leading source markets in Europe for a tour of Kenya next September, to see facilities and the countryside.

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