HOMESTAYS

Covid-19 sees a shift from hotels to holiday homes

Airbnb business has been thriving due to Covid-times as people seek safer accomodation spaces as they travel

In Summary
  • Various sectors in the economy also experienced a shift in normal activity as the world tried to cope with the pandemic, tourism being one of them.
  • Reduced hotel visits saw a growth in a new segment in tourism, holiday homes.
A screenshot of Airbnb website of Kwale homes and apartments
A screenshot of Airbnb website of Kwale homes and apartments
Image: COURTESY

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world it changed the way we live, work, travel, socialise and even holiday.

Wearing of masks, social distancing, sanitising or washing hands formed part of the new normal. 

The tourism sector was one of the hardest hit and after a long closure, travel habits changed as the world tried to cope with the pandemic.

Travel restrictions coupled with the stay at home directive, saw hotels record very low numbers of visitors or even some recording zero occupancy.

A hotel survey carried out by the Central Bank of Kenya(CBK) shows hotels recorded an average 26 percent occupancy during the December holidays despite an almost full reopening of the economy, indicating a slow recovery for the hospitality industry.

This was however a slight improvement from an average of 23 percent in November.

The reduced hotel visits  was however a blessing to some home owners who turned them into holiday homes.

The demand arose from people who still yearned to travel but were uncomfortable staying in hotels which host large groups. They wanted a homely place away from home.

Kenyans who turned their extra bedrooms or houses into Airbnbs, lodging and home stays for travellers reaped during the period.

One such place, is Amagoro Park in Kitale, Trans-Nzoia county.

The development comprises of a business park, residential real estate and a nature park.

It consists of recreational facilities such as a golf course, tennis court, swimming pool and a gym.

This park comprises 50 complete and furnished homes, owned by Kenyans who rent them out for tourists or visitors.

Developers purchase land at a cost of Sh4.5million, choose a design for the house and depending on the choice,  the cost of construction might range from Sh20million to Sh100million.

After construction, you may decide to let your home or just have it for your own personal use.

“The Covid-19 pandemic saw a reduced number of international arrivals to our developments but local visitors helped us remain afloat,” said Geoffrey Mudi, a supervisor at the development.

Some owners of the homes have also put up their homes on various letting sites such as Airbnb which assist in getting bookings.

“The November and December period was the best for us last year as most weeks had us at 100 per cent capacity, mostly with locals,” said Mudi.

In Malindi, there is Swordfish Villas. which according to Gladys Mueni, one of the housekeepers, enjoyed improved business during the pandemic period as more visitors discovered them through the various letting apps

“Self-catering and having personal space are some of the major reasons guests are choosing Airbnb because it is convenient, and has lower risks of Covid-19 transmission,” said Mueni.

In Eldoret town, there is Unity homes a residential estate which comprises of 250 houses.

Lucy Murrey owns one of the houses which she has named Kayk Homes that she lets as a holiday home.

For Murrey, business was quite a challenge at first when Covid-19 hit the country due to the travel restrictions since most clients were from outside the town but it got better when travel restrictions were lifted.

“Most of our clients are people stopping over due to curfew time when they are on long journeys to the west, but we also get people on holiday here at Eldoret,” said Murrey.

According to Murrey, the Airbnb business has really grown as people shy away from hotels as the 'BnBs' are a cheaper alternative to hotels, and are more relaxed with utmost privacy for clients.

She also noted that most clients who preferred the facility were families with children and older people as they are able to prepare meals that suit them.

According to the Buyer’s Survey by Knight Frank Kenya, released in December 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a high demand for locations that offer green spaces as more people increasingly focused on wellness after spending a great deal of 2020 at home.

This saw a significant number of ultra-high net worth Kenyans mulling to purchase homes in local holiday destinations to escape the unremarkable city life.

Wealthy Kenyans, the report said, have shown a strong appetite for rural and coastal properties that have open spaces to allow them an opportunity to spend quality time in places like Kilifi and Mombasa.

“The super-rich, who previously budgeted for holidays abroad, have found it cumbersome to travel, hence the need to buy homes in tranquil places away from the congested capital,” the report noted.