“I listed some in 2016. The numbers have doubled since 2016. People are getting to know the benefits of Airbnb,” Mr Kyalo said.

Two months ago, Kaskazi Beach Hotel joined Airbnb. The sea-front hotel has 191 rooms.

The hotel’s marketing manager Daniel Ogechi said they were using Airbnb to find new customers.

“It is giving us business. We normally give them three to four rooms. We wanted more bookings. We are selling single and double rooms. We have had bookings from international tourists,“ he said.

According to the Tourism Sector Performance Report, 2018 by the Ministry of Tourism, growth in shared economy is among the notable trends that will shape destination Kenya’s performance this year.

GROWTH

In the seven months to September last year, Kenya guest arrivals via Airbnb grew by 68 per cent and this is out of the domestic market that is also using the platform.

Since its founding in 2008, Airbnb hosts across Africa have earned more than $400 million in direct income from renting out their properties via the service.

Tourism is one of the continent’s fastest-growing sectors and contributed nearly $178 billion to Africa’s gross domestic product in 2017, according to latest figures from the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Data from Airbnb shows that Kenya had more than 6,500 listings at the end of 2018, while AllTherooms, an accommodation search engine, puts 2,000 active listings in the Coast alone.

PRICING

Of these, 676 are active Airbnb listings in Mombasa with an average price of the rentals at $85 per night. The lowest priced Airbnb in Mombasa is $10 per night.

Diani Beach in Kwale County has 404 active Airbnb rentals with an average price of $135 per night. Malindi in Kilifi County has 409 active Airbnb rentals.

The average price of Airbnb rentals in Malindi is $126 per night. Watamu in Kilifi has attracted 413 active Airbnb rentals with an average pricing of $133 per night.

Kilifi Town has 62 active Airbnb rentals with an average pricing of $133 per night.

As a result of the entry of this new form of tourism hosting, African governments now want a slice of Airbnb’s cake.

For instance, Tanzania last November asked all the Airbnb operators to register their facilities with the government before the end of the year or face court action.

COMPETITION

In Kenya the push for registration has not been as aggressive as other markets, but still tourism players are calling for a fair playing ground, as they recognise the threat from this service.

“It will have an impact on the traditional landscape and the Tourism Regulatory Authority (TRA) needs to be proactive. We already have issues with homestays.

“The proprietors of homestays are complaining that the standards are stringent,” Mr Sam Ikwaye, Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) Coast branch executive officer, said.

“We have the issue of standards and quality, but most important we have issues on the challenge of taxation. If there is somebody who is going to do business and not pay taxes, then it is actually a disservice and it is creating an uneven playing field,” Mr Ikwaye added.

TAXES

In an interview with Saturday Nation, TRA chairman Sammy Nyule said they are in the process of registering all tourism-related enterprises and expected Airbnb to come forward and be registered.

“We are working with Airbnb to facilitate registration and remitting of taxes by July. It is being planned. They are supposed to be licensed by TRA after which we can come in,” Mr Joseph Cherutoi, Tourism Fund Chief Executive Officer, said.

He said they were looking forward to signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Airbnb.

“We will arrange a meeting with them and then write an MoU. After that, once Airbnb collects their commission, they will also collect the levy on our behalf. We are also going to work with the Kenya Revenue Authority,” Mr Cherutoi said.

MUTUAL RELATIONS

Interestingly, most county officials in the Coast, which is a tourism hub, either have no idea about this new disruption, or are just burying their heads in the sand.

“This is still an emerging issue, and we know that this platform is gaining traction in urban areas like Nairobi, Mombasa, Malindi and Nakuru. We also understand that most of these hosts are hiding this kind of businesses, but we are working with TRA and Kwale, Kilifi, Mombasa and Taita Taveta county governments to register them,” he added.

Airbnb, on its part, has expressed willingness to work with African governments to ensure they get a piece of the hospitality pie through sharing of revenues.

“We are working towards having the African government embrace home sharing as a new player in tourism, then we can work with them to put in place certain tools, like collecting and remitting tourism tax,” Ms Corcoran said.

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