By Henry Ochieng’, KARA CEO

Mombasa County’s plans to regulate Airbnbs has brought to the fore a less-talked about issue regarding alternative accommodations: security.


A little background: On May 9, Mombasa County Tourism and Trade Executive Michael Mutua told hoteliers at a meeting that the county would issue regulations targeting Airbnbs, villas, and private homes. The regulations, he said, would help boost revenue and security. This was music to the ears of hoteliers who are facing stiff competition from Airbnbs.

Like digital ride-hailing operators in Kenya’s transport sector, online alternative accommodation operators like Airbnb have greatly disrupted the traditional hospitality sector. In cities like Nairobi and Mombasa, thousands of villa and apartment owners have opened up their properties for paying guests. Nyali alone is estimated to have 700 Airbnbs.

However, the presence of Airbnbs within apartments has been raising security concerns. Whereas hosts are required to follow Airbnb’s guidelines for providing guests with a clean, safe and comfortable space to stay, guests are expected to adhere to basic rules of conduct. But not all guests, who are mainly travellers, follow those rules.

There have been instances where guests hold drinking parties and the whole place turns chaotic. In such cases, residents feel exposed and helpless, especially if the Airbnb owner doesn’t live around. This robs them of the tranquility they expect to enjoy in their residences. Such an environment is also toxic for children.

Indeed, living in an apartment where your next door neighbour operates an Airbnb can be scary. Strangers come in, rent and disappear after a a few days. You wake up one morning and meet a stranger in the corridor. Two days later, the stranger is gone and another one has checked in. Residents don’t know who they are or what their intentions are.

Ordinarily, Airbnb guidelines encourage hosts to report any violation by a guest. The host can also write a strong negative review about the guest once he or she leaves and give them a low rating. But that does not help in fostering a good relationship between guests and residents. Hosts employing a business approach when dealing with such situations doesn’t help, either.

So, what should be done?

First, we need to acknowledge that Airbnbs are here to stay. However, their operations should be regulated so that residents don’t have to live in fear of the unknown whenever there are guests around. The Airbnb hosts should have clearly stated dos and don’ts which the guests should sign up to before being admitted to the facility.

The Airbnb hosts should be registered members of a Residents Association within the jurisdiction of their operation and to which they are answerable for the conduct of their guests. This would go a long way in enhancing good “neighbourliness” between residents and Airbnb guests and ensuring adherence to certain rules developed by the residents.