Kisumu Homeowners Turn Their Idle Bungalows Into Airbnb Lodges

Tiana Court in Milimani, Kisumu
Tiana Court in Milimani, Kisumu. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA | NMG 

Homeowners in Kisumu are opening their old, rarely used houses in Milimani and Riat Hills suburbs to travellers visiting the lakeside city.

Most of the bungalows were built in the 80s or 90s on expansive compounds in the leafy neighbourhoods of Milimani which was a preserve of the rich .

Some owners are moving out to new areas, refurbishing the old bungalows and renting them out to tourists and organisers of work retreats.

The homes built on nearly one-acre can accommodate up to 15 guests and are located near tourist sites such as Lake Victoria, Kisumu Museum, Impala Park among others.

Lilian Atieno, the proprietor of Tiana Court Milimani, renovated her bungalow which was built in the 70s to accommodate up to 12 guests. The house now has five bathrooms, a large kitchen as well as modern furniture in the living and dining room. The rooms have WiFi and the guests share the kitchen, dining area and the lounge section.


“We offer bed and breakfast at Sh4,000. A cook or a housekeeper attract extra charges,” she says.

There is a beautiful garden on over half an acre piece of land. ‘‘Ordinarily, the garden is used as a playground for children of visitors who come here,” added Mrs Atieno.

List on Airbnb

A number of homeowners have listed their properties on Airbnb, the online marketplace for people to lease or rent short-term lodging, among other sites.

In Kenya, some of the most popular Airbnb listed homes are in Nairobi’s Karen, Upperhill , Spring Valley estates, Naivasha, Watamu and Lamu.

Last year, Kenyan property listings on vacation rental site Airbnb jumped 57 per cent to 5,900 in the year to September, reflecting the site’s growing popularity. .

Unlike hotels which have strict, the home-stay have flexible check-in /check out times.

The emergence of the home-stay model in the upmarket neighbourhoods of Kisumu has changed the dynamics of the hospitality industry which was for a long patronised by Imperial Hotel and government-owned Sunset Hotel.

Other facilities such as Acacia Premier Hotel, Grand Royal Swiss, Sovereign, Le Savana and Royal Swiss hotel are some of the hotels which are thriving and play host to a number of guests.

Vivian Kobe, the managing director of Viba Explore says most of the guests who frequent the home-stay dwellings are from the diaspora.

“In the last one year, we have had a high demand for furnished apartments from overseas clients who are interested to find a home away from home,” says the Kisumu-based tours and travel agent.

Mrs Kobe says most tourists prefer secure environs and that can be easily accessed any time of the day or night. Kisumu homeowners are also taking advantage of the new roads.

“Most of our visitors prefer quiet places which allow them to live privately and lavishly,” she says.

Woo visitors

The home-stay concept comes as the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) seeks to increase the number of visitors touring the Lake Victoria region.

Betty Radier, KTB chief executive officer, says they will focus on areas that have previously not been showcased as well as those that require to be transformed into top travel experiences.

Among the Lake region’s signature products include Impala Sanctuary, Lake Victoria, Kakamega Forest, Ruma National Park, Kit Mikayi, Crying Stone, Soapstone carvings in Tabaka, Nabongo Kingdom and Thimlich Ohinga in Migori.