How an accommodation crisis inspired a staycation business


The livingroom, which has been designed and furnished to give off a
home-away-from home vibe.

Photo credit: Pool

The individuals behind well-known brand names in the market did not wake up one morning and start a business that catapulted them into captains of industry overnight.

Many experienced a problem firsthand, and in trying to find a solution for it, ended up building companies of repute.

Obed Bundi’s staycation business was borne out of the difficulty he went through getting satisfactory accommodation that matched his budget while travelling for work a few years ago. Back in 2018, the business consultant had travelled by road to Addis Ababa and was put aback when he realised that the rooms in all the hotels he visited were not up to his taste and budget. Disappointed, he sought other means of accommodation.

“Someone recommended a furnished apartment on the outskirts of the Ethiopian capital, and my experience there was an eye-opener. It had this atmosphere of a home away from home,” he says.

Upon his return to Nakuru, he already had a business idea, and using his savings and a bank loan, leased space in an apartment building and began his staycation business.

“It is not that easy getting a loan for a start-up, and the financial institutions I approached were skeptical of the venture’s viability and would not commit to it. I eventually got a bank that was willing to finance my business, it understood that Airbnbs were gradually becoming a market disruptor in the hospitality sector,” he explains.

He runs eight Airbnb units under the trade name Obed in the Wild. Three are located in Nakuru City, one in Gilgil town and four in Nairobi. His clients range from travelers such as those checking in to catch an early flight or the Standard Gauge Railway, SGR, train to the Coast and individuals and families looking for a staycation experience in Nairobi.

Airbnb located in Nakuru City

One of the bedrooms in the Airbnb located in Nakuru City that Obed runs.

Photo credit: Pool

“For my unit in Syokimau, I target travellers since it is close to the airport and the SGR. It is a perfect location for someone in Nairobi for work,” he says.

He notes the future is promising because more and more people are embracing tourism or travelling, a factor that has given rise to out of town Airbnb units for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

Just like in Uber business where the business that conceptualised the idea does not own a fleet of taxis, the same can be said of the staycation business. All it requires of the businessman is to find apartment space in ideal locations, rent or lease the space and furnish it. Like in all businesses, this one comes with its unique set of challenges.

“You can go that extra mile of furnishing an apartment only for the management to tell you they don’t like the idea of a furnished apartment in their court,” he says.

Also, since clients have no staff to attend to them when they have issues unlike if they booked hotels, resolving their issues can be a challenge. But this is a challenge that Obed has since found a solution for.

“I have a house manager who is on call to resolve any issues that may crop up, we strive as much as possible to give them a seamless experience.”

He adds that in case of a last minute cancellation when a client has paid advance booking, the client gets a refund depending on when the cancellation is made.

How does he go about getting clients and which time of year is the business brisk?

Obed Aboko Bundi

Obed Aboko Bundi who operates six staycations located in Nakuru, Gilgil and Nairobi. 

Photo credit: Pool

“We have listed our properties online via Airbnb, and Trip Advisor. We also use social media platforms and local magazines to advertise. We have also gained lots of referrals from clients who have experienced our services and were happy with them. These form the majority of our clientele. Business is most brisk from October to January when most people travel for holidays. Long weekends are also good since the demand is high,” he says.

He points out that his business is not immune from negative reviews once in a while if a dissatisfied client vents his frustration on social media instead of reaching out to him. In such a case, Obed first apologises for the wanting experience that the client went through and gets their side of the story.

“To mitigate such a scenario, we always ask our clients to share their experience, whether good or bad because we believe it goes a long way in improving our services.”

Not all clients can be well meaning. Some can damage items or even steal when checking out, but he says for those booking online, they enter into a contractual obligation and so in case of damage or theft, the business is compensated.

But some clients can be cunning.

“Early on in the business, I allowed a client a two months’ stay in one of the apartments. Rather than sign a contract, we had an oral agreement. That client vanished into thin air, and since I had not captured his contact, I never recovered that money. That incident was an eye-opener.”

His advice for anyone venturing into this sector?

“Just like any other business, all the 5 Ps of marketing: product, price, promotion, place and people must tick the box,” he comments, adding that in the service industry, the bar has been set up high and one needs to give their clients a reason to choose their facility.


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