It’s the flavour of the month.
Every weekend, couples or groups come together and rent a house or an apartment on Airbnb for the night.
So popular have the Airbnb rentals become that you have to book early lest you find all of them taken.
The demand is driven largely by revellers seeking to spend an evening or night socializing, now that nightclubs must close by 9pm as part of government measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Nairobi has been the epicentre of the respiratory disease, where the first case of the virus was reported on March 12, 2020, after the beginning of the outbreak in China in late 2019.
President Uhuru Kenyatta later ordered bars and restaurants to close, among other restrictions. Bars and restaurants were supposed to close initially at 7pm and later at 9pm.
But, as they say, necessity is the mother of all invention.
When bars, restaurants and other entertainment places were closed for a while, people took partying to the next level. Some partied in their houses while others discovered Airbnbs, where they party until dawn.
More embracing rentals
Morris Aron, a real estate expert who manages Airbnb rentals, says more and more Kenyans are embracing them, mainly because of the Covid-19 restrictions.
He adds that before anyone is licensed to operate an Airbnb rental, they must meet several Ministry of Tourism requirements.
One-bedroom apartments can only host up to two people.
“But just like any other place, you will never miss a rowdy person. You get someone who says they were two, and they are more than the number they said, so we either turn them away or advise them to get an extra room. It’s something that we take seriously because some Airbnbs are under regulations,” Mr Aron says.
Closing bars after the lockdown prompted people to make risky decisions as people started partying in houses, said Derrick Ingara, a renter.
Parties in houses
“It is riskier moving parties to the houses rather than bars because the bar operators can control them. They can take people’s temperature, people can sanitise, but in the houses, people do not care, something that is scary for other tenants. We need to take care of each other and for that, I urge the President to open the bars,” Ingara said.
Sasha Idebe, a tenant on Kenyatta Road in Nairobi, says partying in Airbnbs is the new normal and confesses to have attended such parties.
“I think it’s one’s choice to prevent contracting this deadly virus, and its one’s responsibility to take care of themselves and there is no need to force anyone to wear masks,” she said.
“Honestly, since the pandemic started, businesses haven’t been intact. Most people, especially where I come from, have turned their houses into bars where they generate some income. I am a party person and I have witnessed people partying all night in their houses without social distancing.”
But she understands why some people turn their houses into bars: “One has to eat, pay bills and I don’t blame people for seeking new ways to generate income.”
Oliver Oyugah, founder of Colive Ltd, a real estate company, agrees with Mr Aron that Airbnb rooms are rented out to a specific number of people.
“Most of our guests are international clients. In our case, we haven’t found anyone who has tested positive for Covid. We have Covid-19 protocols that our clients have to abide by,” Mr Oyugah said.
“We make sure our clients come in with their Covid certificates then we verify the documents. We also make sure they follow up on these regulations. You see, we only allow a specific number in the rooms. For a one-bedroom apartment the maximum people we allow are two.”
Airbnb is an American company that operates an online marketplace for holiday rentals. People can list their property on an app and rent it out when they are not using it.
Renting out flats
Initially, people rented out single-family homes but increasingly, many are renting out flats, which they convert into exclusive Airbnbs.
There are 2.9 million hosts on Airbnb worldwide, with 14,000 new hosts joining the platform each month.
There are over seven million listings on Airbnb worldwide, spread across 100,000 cities.
According to Mr Aron, the number of customers renting out Airbnbs from outside Kenya has gone down compared with the pre-Covid-19 era.
Mr Aron, however, insists that they are not taking Covid-19 to neighbourhoods as they follow Ministry of Health and other regulations.