Franco will be remembered as a tourism pioneer in Kenya for supporting the country as a safari destination and for shining a light on coastal tourism.
He became interested in the continent of Africa as a young boy as he listened to stories from his father who worked as a construction foreman in Africa. As he dreamed of seeing the animals and land for himself one day, he eventually found himself on the track to becoming a travel agent.
He first arrived on the continent in 1967 with his wife Amalia and spent a month exploring Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. Together they went on safaris and migrated to the Nairobi coast where he decided to invest in Kenya as a travel destination. On the coast he saw huge potential for travel to the warm beautiful beaches especially in the winter months to escape Europe’s bitter cold.
He set his sights on Diani Beach.
Here, his friend Torino Calcio Orfeo Pianelli built Leopard Beach, then on Malindi where he himself built Tropical Village, and where he also acquired in later years 2 hotels, namely Dream of Africa and the Coconut. In 2018, he opened his fourth property, Malindi Dream Garden.
Diani Beach has since become a major beach on the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya. It has been voted Africa’s leading beach destination for the fifth time running since 2015.
Intra Safaris travel and tour operations was born 2 years after that first vacation with Amalia, and 4 years after that he put together the first charter flight from Italy to Nairobi. eTN correspondent, Tony Ofungi, fondly remembers Franco as a great friend of his father the late Luke Kercan Ofungi who was not only the Commissioner of Police but also himself a pioneer tour operator in Uganda.
When Ofungi’s family escaped to exile in the 70s, it was Franco who accommodated them, remaining a mentor to the family following Luke’s passing in 1991. Today, Tony operates Maleng Travel which found a renewal of partnerships with Intra Safaris, adding gorilla tracking as an extension of the charters out of Malindi, Kenya.
Franco is survived by his wife and children Sara, Paolo, and Alessandro.