The idea of setting up a homestay at Ondiek estate in Kisumu came as a second thought for Dorothy Omboto and her fiancé Daniel Nnaemeka.
When they were starting in December 2016, the concept was still new in the lakeside city while a few players who ventured in the business preferred the upmarket Milimani estate.
But the two who initially rented their house at the mid-level estate at Sh20,000 per month opted out of the venture after it failed to yield expectations.
“It became stressful when we started receiving numerous calls from the tenant to have one or two repairs done. This was more expensive than we anticipated,” says Dorothy.
On realising that the house was not yielding much, they decided to refurbish and furnish it.
They named it D & D Premier Stay (coined from the initials of their first names) and listed it on Airbnb, an online hospitality service that enables people to rent either a room or a whole private house for short-term vacations and homestays.
Within a week of registering on Airbnb, a foreign client booked the house for two weeks at Sh7,000 per day, says Dorothy.
Airbnb is growing rapidly in Africa, especially in cities such as Kisumu, Nairobi and Mombasa.
The Airbnb community has grown quickly as guests from every corner of the world come to explore local destinations, participate in one-of-a-kind experiences.
In Kenya, the most booked experiences include a coffee farm tour in Limuru and Nairobi National Park visit, according to Airbnb. There are over 130,000 listings across Africa.
In Kenya, guest arrivals has risen by 68 percent over the years with a Nairobi home with private gardens called 'The Constant Gardener House' and the Brandy Bus in Karen being the most booked.
From the money that Dorothy and Daniel acquired over the years, they managed to save and acquired another house in Milimani suburb which is situated 800 meters from the central business district.
When they took over the facility which sits on a three-quarter acre piece of land, it only had a big bungalow and three servant quarters which could accommodate up to 10 guests. In addition to this, they developed a two-bedroom prefabricated house and exquisitely furnished.
This has changed the dynamics of their business as they have been able to tap from the well-paying clientele who opt to take up the space. They charge between Sh3,000 to Sh7,000.
The house which has a door separating the two units can be converted into a two-bedroom house for those who want to occupy the entire address and accommodate a number of guests.
To woo travellers amid a growing number of Airbnb Kisumu listings, Dorothy offers additions such as car rental services and outdoor space for barbecue.
“From the single US-based client, we have managed to get several others who were referred to us,” says Dorothy who is a lawyer in Kisumu. Daniel is an optician.
“Unlike other business ventures, I find management of homestay less expensive as it does not need our physical presence every other time,” says Dorothy.
When Kenyan property investors started listing on the vacation rental site Airbnb, there were fears it would destabilise the hotel industry. However, Robinson Anyal, the chairman of Western Kenya Hospitality Leaders’ Association says it is offering little competition to hotels.
“Since the facilities do not have a capacity to hold a large number of guests and conference facilities, the fully fledged hotels are still enjoying from their investments,” he says.
He however acknowledged that the few licence requirements is working to their advantage and making homestay owners to make considerable profits.
“They virtually do not need a lot of funds to advertise their premises and also save more on recruitment of human resource,” says Robinson.