A truck home owned by BBC journalist Ian Wafula. It is listed on Airbnb. [Photo/ @Ian_Wafula]
A truck home owned by BBC journalist Ian Wafula. It is listed on Airbnb. [Photo/ @Ian_Wafula]

Established in 2007, Airbnb has grown to become the world’s leading short-term accommodation rental service. Its platform as of 2021 includes listings in more than 100,000 cities in 220 countries.

The online platform serves as a marketplace, connecting guests to hosts who list spaces such as single rooms or entire houses. Airbnb offers hosts the chance to generate income from the spaces available to them. While some hosts on Airbnb use it to make cash on the side, it is a full-time business for others.

The service is proving increasingly popular in Kenya. Many guests are Kenyans looking to find accommodation for their next getaway or road trip, others are international tourists uninterested in the hotel experience. Some use Airbnb to find accommodation when, on business trips, they find themselves in a new town or city.

Several Kenyans are raking in cash by listing spaces they’re not using on Airbnb, including upcountry homes and city apartments. Others, such as BBC presenter Ian Wafula, have built special spaces which tend to attract more bookings and higher rates on Airbnb.

Wafula’s Truck House in Machakos county is an example of a unique space whose features make it a hot property on Airbnb. The house with modern styling and amenities is quite literally built out of a truck.

In this article, Business Today breaks down the steps you can take to start earning money on Airbnb in Kenya.

Create an Engaging Listing

Creating a listing is the first step to making money on Airbnb. To stand out from the thousands of listings on the platform, your listing needs to be as engaging as possible.

A listing should include basic information about the space such as the type of property it is, its location, the number of rooms and the number of bathrooms.

It is also crucial to include photos. Take quality photos preferably in natural light, with clear shots of each area – living space, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, stairs etc. If possible, use landscape orientation.

Also remember to highlight the unique features of your space. Your listing is essentially an advertisement for your space. What makes it special? Is it a pool, a serene outdoor area, trees? Put it all in there.

Finally, add house rules to your listing. For example, if you don’t allow partying or smoking in the space, make it clear.

Plan to Host

Getting logistics right is an important part of establishing a profitable Airbnb operation. To succeed, you must approach hosting with a business mindset.

Make sure to set up your Airbnb calendar so that guests are only able to make bookings when you are available to host. Constantly update your Airbnb calendar depending on your availability. On your listing, you can also add specific details of how much advance notice you need from guests.

Set Your Price

Think of a pricing strategy before choosing and setting your nightly price. Hosts are advised to think like guests when settling on the pricing. Research other listings in the same area or with similar spaces to get a feel of the average rates you can charge and turn a profit.

Consider the number of guests you can accommodate, the number of rooms, the available amenities and the lead time before settling on a nightly price. Remember, you can also add seasonal pricing – for example, a higher rate on weekends.

You can also add additional fees such as guest service fees or maintenance and cleaning fees.

But when starting out, competitive pricing can be useful to help bag your first few guests and positive reviews.

Alternatively, you can also use Airbnb’s Smart Pricing feature to do the work for you. It factors in lead time, location, seasonality, listing popularity and review history to set a nightly price. Make sure to set your minimum nightly price within the Smart Pricing tool to ensure your rate never falls bellow the threshold.

Prepare to Host

Make arrangements to ensure you are always ready to host. It is important that the space is always kept clean and tidy.

It also helps to make guests feel at home by making things such as soap and bed linens available for them. Other hosts go an extra mile, making snacks and drinks available for guests.

If you have any valuables within the space, such as cash or jewelry, consider storing them in a safe location.

A thoughtful touch such as a welcoming note with instructions, or a bottle of wine, can also help get you positive reviews.

Get Paid

Airbnb typically pays out 24 hours after guests check in. Hosts can receive payments via various channels including direct deposit to your bank, international wire, PayPal and Western Union.

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