Travel

Holiday in self-catering villas amid virus fears

living

A holiday home in Naivasha run by Vamos homes . PHOTO | COURTESY

Summary

  • Nicola Nixon who runs Kilifi Konnection, an online site with self-catering holiday homes, says traffic in the past week has been up since the lockdown measures were eased.
  • Kilifi Konnection is family-owned and manages and markets self-catering seaside properties along the Kenya coast, stretching from Lamu to Diani.
  • he company has more than 50 properties in its books in Kilifi, Diani, Lamu, Malindi, Vipingo, Kuruwitu, Takaungu, and Watamu. Most of the holiday homes are on the beach or the creek.
  • Nicola says self-catered villas gained popularity worldwide in the 1990s because the wealthy vacationers wanted privacy and flexibility. In Covid-19 case, everyone wants that kind of privacy.

Lucia Luca sits on pale cream sand, watching the ocean’s tides dance on the horizon. She has just started her holiday in Diani beach, after months of being cooped up indoors in Nairobi.

As soon as President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the opening of counties’ borders, after months of closure to tame the spread of coronavirus, she booked a villa at Diani in Kwale County.

On Wednesday, she checked in.

“It has been several months indoors in our Nairobi apartment. The cabin fever was real. I was longing to travel especially to the Kenyan coast. I will be in Diani for two weeks,” she says.

Travelling during a pandemic is challenging, especially with fears of contracting the virus in a hotel.

But Lucia is not worried about that while on holiday.

“We are self-catering, isolated with only very few interactions. It seems safer than Nairobi. We usually stay in homes because we love our freedom and space, and it's cheaper than staying in a hotel," she says.

As local and international travellers resume holidaying, apartment hotels and home-stay will experience a high demand as tourists opt for self-catering to lower risk of getting coronavirus from hotel staff and other guests.

Before making her booking, Lucia spoke to the villa owners about the safety measures to ensure guests do not get coronavirus.

“I’ve been to this villa a couple of times and it’s always been spotlessly clean. During this pandemic, they are very keen on the cleaning and have de-cluttered the rooms,” she says.

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A holiday homes in Naivasha run by Vamos homes. PHOTO | COURTESY

Confronted by safety concerns of being on a vacation during a pandemic, holidaymakers like Lucia are opting for self-catering accommodation to limit the number of people they interact with.

Nicola Nixon who runs Kilifi Konnection, an online site with self-catering holiday homes, says traffic in the past week has been up since the lockdown measures were eased.

Kilifi Konnection is family-owned and manages and markets self-catering seaside properties along the Kenya coast, stretching from Lamu to Diani.

“We are a very small business and we were doing quite well before March 2020, after which the bookings dried up completely,” says Nicola.

The company has more than 50 properties in its books in Kilifi, Diani, Lamu, Malindi, Vipingo, Kuruwitu, Takaungu, and Watamu. Most of the holiday homes are on the beach or the creek.

Nicola says self-catered villas gained popularity worldwide in the 1990s because the wealthy vacationers wanted privacy and flexibility. In Covid-19 case, everyone wants that kind of privacy.

The easing of travel restrictions has come with a big appetite for holidays, says another home listing agency.

Raphael Ambasu, the managing director Vamos Home, says he is seeing a light at the end of the tunnel after a tough time during the lockdown, rescheduling bookings, and issuing refunds.

“Last year was a good one where Kenyans and international tourists booked many homes. Covid-19 hit us hard. We have not had a booking for months,” he says.

But soon after the cessation of movement order was eased, bookings and enquiries started trickling in.

“From zero, we have shot to around 30 percent bookings so far. The majority are domestic tourists though we have few from the UK. We are expecting more business in the coming weeks," he says.

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A holiday home in Naivasha run by Vamos homes. PHOTO | COURTESY

Vamos Homes which was started in 2014 has more than 1,600 listings in Mombasa, Mtwapa, Vipingo, Watamu, Lamu, Diani, Chale, Funzi, Shimoni, Nairobi, Kilifi, Kisumu, Naivasha, Nakuru, and Nanyuki.

Raphael plans to list more homes in Zanzibar, Kampala and Dar es Salaam.

He says the biggest attraction of renting an apartment of the villa has always been the cost-effectiveness and freedom.

Savings

“A typical Kenyan family in a hotel will pay roughly 70 percent more than what they do in a home,” he says.

Self-catering accommodation by its very nature, he adds, allows for natural social distancing, with people visiting holiday properties staying in self-contained units without having to use shared facilities. Some serviced apartments offer a private chef.

“When people do not want the crowds then the vacation rentals are better,” he says.

In holiday homes, you can also do the cleaning yourself.

“Recently, we have seen several guests who prefer cleaners to leave the detergents behind so that they can clean the rooms thoroughly by themselves. It is hard and expensive to personalise cleaning in a hotel room," Raphael says.

With guests slowly returning to destinations, the focus is on how to follow the guidelines and protocols by the Tourism and Health ministries.

“We do not mix groups during transfers. We have also reduced the number of people occupying homes,” he says.