African Homestay Case Study
posted on Thursday, September 05, 2013 12:05 PM
In ten days, Elizabeth Hingley an international researcher who had visited the country to carry out a project on the success of locals using cell phones as banks had managed to travel to Coast, Mt Kilimanjaro, Lake Victoria, Rift Valley and Nairobi while finding time to learn about the diverse Kenyan cultures at a cheaper cost thanks to home stay model, a practice of locals hosting tourists instead of them staying in hotels.
What started as an act of kindness when a Japanese family hosted Peter Ongera in their home when he was on a student trip in 1994 has led to a thriving business with almost no capital other than a good home and space. When Peter returned back to Kenya he got a request by the guests who had hosted him who expressed interest in visiting Kenya but wanted to stay at a home rather than a hotel. Peter, still a student whose own home was 200 miles away from the university took the guest to his lecturer's house. The guest paid $5 per day, and when Tokito Saburo,the Japanese guest, went back home, he sent nine other clients.
For this group, Ongera had to look for homes in Nairobi. He found friends who were willing to host the guests would pay him and in turn he pays the hosts. The number increased to 20 Japanese in 1995 and in the following year, after traveling to Canada, he hosted 22 Canadians. Ongera assists about 50 foreigners and Kenyans a month in his home stay business. This is how African Home stays and Safaris was born. Peter Ongera is its Director.
Home stay is the practice of hosting a visitor instead of them staying in a hotel. Normally the average period is four months, but some visitors have stayed for over a year. In the process both the host and the guest get to know each other’s culture in a shorter and informative way and also create a network, invaluable in future.
Also called cultural tourism, the program can be regarded as pro-poor self employment self even the poor have a chance of hosting a guest and make money. Volunteers, researchers, students and low budget tourists are the majority who use this model. Peter feels quite an achiever. He asserted that “during the World Social Forum held in Nairobi in January, I had 1,500 bookings and raked in over US$100,000 in ten days. On average clients under the program pay a minimum $10 a day to the host. This daily charge can't buy a baby's meal in five-star hotels where food costs many times the retail price.”
Ongera makes 20 percent from the assistance he gives to the visitor and host. This amount is deducted from the host who would have registered with his company. Ongera added “It's one of the best ways of learning someone's culture because you eat what they eat, sleep where they sleep; enjoy their whole lifestyle.”
During the period of the stay, the guest becomes part of the home. He or she can cook, wash, take care of animals among other house chores, play around and just do everything the host can do while still doing the core function that led to the travel. When tourists apply for a visit, specifying the kind of experience they want, African Homestay searches for the host and makes security and logistic arrangements. Locals who have registered with the company get first priority. To register, one access their website http://africanhomestaysafaris.kbo.co.ke/ and on the application page, registers their details and sends them. It costs sh2500 for individuals and sh3500 for institutions. The bank details are included in the website as when sending the application, you attach the bank slip.
According to the World Tourism Organization, cultural tourism accounts for five per cent of global tourism and grows at a 30 to 40 per cent rate annually. Tourism expert Sharon Green asserted that “home stays are unique in many ways. Economically locals are directly paid by the tourists unlike when the tourists pay industry players who are mainly foreign-owned (whose taxes to government are not used to improve the lives of those living in tourist resorts).
African Homestays and Safaris are registered with the Kenya Community based tourism (KECOBAT) which has a membership of over 100 organizations. They receive cumulatively roughly 3000 guests in month. Depending on the length of stay, Ongera makes an average of US$600 in a month from this venture.
In February 2007, African Home Stays was chosen among other social enterprises in Africa by the Queens University Management School on a Trickle Out Project (TOP). TOP was a research project funded by the United Kingdom (UK) Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) examining social enterprises and environmental enterprises in Eastern and Southern Africa. The project considers the role and potential contribution of such enterprises to sustainable development and poverty alleviation.
The report of this 26 months project is yet to be released by Peter is happy that his business was chosen among many other social enterprises across Africa. A total of seven social and environmental enterprises from Kenya were chosen out of a total of 21 companies. Other countries in the study were Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa. In conducting the study Dr. Diane Holt, the Principal Investigator retorted that “we hope that in some small way the TOA project will help showcase the innovative, home- grown, truly transformative business models that form the bedrock of modern Kenya and other countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.”
To register and be considered, do visit
http://africanhomestaysafaris.kbo.co.ke/Tourist+Hosting+Application. Once registered, you will receive a tourist hosting contract and a life time certificate to host tourists.