Kenyans make money housing tourists
posted on Wednesday, January 14, 2009 07:15 AM
Published on 24/12/2008 at www.eastandard.net
By Millicent Muthoni
It was in March 1994 that Peter Ongera, then a student at Egerton University, made a trip to Kita Kyushu, Japan for a youth exchange programme. He lived with a Japanese family in their home and picked the home-stay business concept.
He started African Home-stay Services with one Japanese client who was here on an exchange programme. The sojourner paid $5 (Sh4w00) per day, and when he went back home, sent nine other clients.
Then he got 20 Japanese tourists in 1995. The following year, after travelling to Canada, he hosted 22 Canadians.
"During the World Social Forum held in Nairobi in January 2007, I had 1,500 bookings and raked in over $100,000 in 10 days for 450 homes situated near the conference venue," reminisces Ongera about his Sh8 million windfall.
Today, he gets at least 40 clients every month mostly students, volunteers, researchers, journalists and other low-budget tourists. Ongera’s home-stay agency links up tourists who want to live, study and work in Africa with local hosts in rural villages and towns, including in the slums.
"The 40 tourists each pay an average daily fee of $20 (Sh1,600). On average, a minimum of $10 (Sh800) goes to the host. Even when they do not pay a fee, the visitors always leave a generous token of appreciation," Ongera says.
Tourism is one of the leading sectors in international service trade and a top export item for many countries. For most people, tourism is the reserve of big establishments like lodges, hotels and tour operators. Often, these heavyweights are foreign-owned and take the income generated from this lucrative industry away from the local economy back to their countries of origin; very rarely developing countries.
"Travellers’ Philanthropy is a concept being embraced worldwide to enable travellers support locally run hotels, restaurants and communities, ensuring that the funds remain in the country of destination," explains Ongera.
Tour itineraries are changing to incorporate interaction between tourists and the community, thus promoting social, conservation, education and empowerment programmes.
The Grand Circle Travel is one such organisation. It facilitates American retirees to travel to Africa every year through the Travelling Club, a philanthropic group that visits selected schools and women groups and stays in homes.
East African tour guides have been trained to take care of the tourists. Travel philanthropy is growing as globalisation takes root. It is a responsible and sustainable way of conducting tourism. Jaded from seeing animals and landscapes, tourists want to meet and integrate with people.
Ongera explains the inspiration behind his company: "African Home-stay Services is an initiative in public interest. It markets Africa as a tourist-friendly destination with a rich cultural and historical heritage in addition to the climate, wildlife and natural landscape. Africa is not a dark hopeless continent full of war, poverty, famine, floods, disease and bad governance."
He seeks to enforce world-class standards in Kenyan home-stays. Hosts should offer a comfortable and well-serviced stay to the tourists.
Ongera encourages many Kenyans to take interest in hosting tourists in their houses. A home stay experience gives the international visitor the opportunity to live and be exposed to the African culture. Unlike in the hotels, Tourists eat what the hosts eat, sleep where they sleep and are assimilated into their lifestyle.
Stay-home tourists also enable the gains from tourism industry to trickle down to the ordinary people without incurring heavy costs. Ongera reveals that home-stays were affected by the post election violence, The Olympic games and the global market slump.