Airbnbs to get licences from tourism authority

A bedroom at the Nyali golf view residence in Mombasa. [Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

Owners of Airbnb facilities will now have to obtain licences and pay annual fees to run their homestay businesses.

The Tourism Regulatory Authority (TRA) says the move is aimed at regulating the fast-evolving accommodation and services sector.

In a March 1 letter to Nimmoh Homestays, a company that specialises in furnished apartments and villas, TRA said all members of the company that were undertaking the accommodation business were required to have registered with the authority by March 31.

Inspection of all registered units was to start this month.

"Furnished apartments and private villas are among the licensable accommodation facilities that offer regulated hospitality services,” said the letter signed by TRA Regional Manager for Central Region Moses Karanja.

“They are listed in the Fourth Schedule of the Tourism Authority Regulations 2014 and are required to be registered, inspected and licensed by TRA before commencement of the operation."

Airbnb was started as an online marketplace that connects people who want to rent out their homes with holidaymakers interested in paying to occupy them for a short stint of time. It is a shortened version of its original name,

These houses, converted by owners with an aim of accommodation for travellers, have recently come to be commonly referred to as Airbnbs.

They provide alternatives for travellers who would like to have a ‘private’ holiday experience away from a typical town or vacation hotel.

TRA said owners of Airbnbs will pay a one-off application fee of Sh1,000 and an annual licence fee of Sh26,000.

They are also required to provide copies of a filled application form, original deposit slip for application and licence fees, tariff or rack rates, and a copy of the title deed or lease agreement for the premises.

"Tourism Regulatory Authority (has a) mandate… to regulate all tourism activities and services in Kenya. This is achieved through registration, quality assurance audits and licencing all tourism activities and services as per the fourth schedule of Tourism Authority Regulations of 2014,” read the letter.

The tourism sector lost Sh130 billion due to the Covid-19 pandemic disruptions.

Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said early this year that the decline was due to low occupancy, cancelled trips and disruption in foreign and local travel that saw several hotels shut down operations.

People going for holidays can book to stay in Airbnbs, with the main risk to the traveller being that the property may not live up to its listing.

In many cases, though, Airbnbs are cheaper than hotels that offer the same space and serenity.

Local players in the hospitality industry continue to appreciate the rising popularity of homestays at the expense of hotels, with the often cheaper, more spacious and private Airbnbs a favourite of many holidaymakers.

The TRA letter said every Airbnb member will pay an initial licence fee for 2021 upon which they will be required to pay up for every unit in 2022.

"Arrears and penalties shall be waived for those who will comply within the registration window,” the letter said.

"Those who will not comply and continue operating without the tourism licence will be liable to prosecution without further reference and will upon conviction pay accrued licence fees, arrears and penalties for the period operated."

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