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Kenya homeowners reap big as they turn homes into guest houses

Nakuru Trade, Industrialisation, Tourism and Wildlife Management Executive Ann Njenga.

Nakuru Trade, Industrialisation, Tourism and Wildlife Management Executive Ann Njenga.

Recently, Meru Governor Peter Munya was in the news asking people hailing from the county but live in Nairobi to convert their rural homes into paid-for accommodation facilities. This was as the county took stock of accommodation challenges in readiness for hosting the third devolution conference.

In Nakuru County, the idea has already seen the light of day. And as the county solidifies its place in the tourism sector, some residents are converting homes into guest houses. One such person is James Mwaura, who owns apartments in the prestigious Milimani estate. He says he opted to turn his 12 rental houses into fully-furnished houses in 2013. This, he says, was due to good returns.

Mwaura says that at the time, a one-bedroom house fetched Sh6,500 per month, but after refurbishment, he charges Sh5,000 daily per room for the fully-furnished rooms. “A one-bedroom house in 2010 was just giving me Sh6,500 in a month. Today, the houses give me the same amount I sued to earn in a month in one or two days,” he says.

“I have no regret in converting my houses into fully-furnished apartments since I earn more than I used to do before I converted them. During peak season, the premises accommodate 12 tourists per day, giving me an average of Sh60,000 per stay,” he says.

Mwaura is not alone as Nakuru sees growing tourist numbers visiting the county, which boasts of being home to one of the country’s premium parks, the Lake Nakuru National Park. The park is  home to about 1.5 million flamingos, the pink birds that dot the shores of the shallow salty lake set in a picturesque landscape of woodland and grasslands.

The county also has lakes Naivasha and Elementaita, turning the region into a perfect holiday destination, perhaps only rivalled by the coastal region.

About 250,000 local and international tourists visit the county annually. This has seen Nakuru turn into a conference and retreat centre.

Jambo Place Guest House in Kiamunyi was also converted from a homestead into a guest house three years ago. Edwin Wathima, the manager, says they target families and groups who hire their premises for parties and those willing to stay within the city for a long time.

Wathima says that their clients prefer their houses due to privacy since the structures were initially built as family houses.

Home & Away met one such client, James Wanderi, over the Easter period. Wanderi, who had travelled from Nairobi with his family for an early Easter Holiday, said he enjoyed the stay as he did most of his house chores with family members.

“We have been doing what we wanted most like making our own meals within the house and we have enjoyed the stay here,” he said as he got ready to leave.

Wathima says that to make the facility more accommodating, they have a kitchen where their customers can do their own meals; a dining hall for the family or the team which has booked.

Kahiga homestay

Kahiga homestay

He adds that for those who may not be willing to cook for themselves, their catering team is available and does the meal as instructed under the supervision of the customer.

Another investor, Jane Wangui from the Kiamunyi area, says she has decided to renovate her nine apartments to fully-furnished houses by providing kitchens and pavilions.

Wangui says she made the decision after looking at the trends in the area, and for her troubles, she will earn in two days what she earned in a month.

“Some of the tenants who rent your houses will damage it by either dumping waste all over or not taking care of the floors since they know that you are not regularly checking their rooms. The shortage of fully-furnished rooms for tourists is also driving us into the business which is well-paying,” she says.

Nakuru County Executive for Trade, Industrialisation, Tourism and Wildlife Management Ann Njenga said that the conversion of houses into hotels in Milimani and Kiamunyi areas is a boost to the county’s tourism sector.

Njenga said that they encourage tourists through their Internet platform to visit the county, adding that rules which they have put in place during conversion are adhered to.

She said that good beds, doors and ventilation in the houses are a must . She added that investors were adhering to the set standards, making the projects a success.

Njenga said that the county government will support investors by providing free advice where needed to put up more hotels.

“As long as they meet the required standards, which we will make sure and we are making sure they adhere to in setting the new rooms for tourists, the county government will support them fully,” she said.

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