As tourism restarts, Africa must be deliberate about keeping more tourism spend in destinations. This is critical for achieving an economically sustainable hospitality & tourism sector. For this to happen, Africa needs to encourage more local investors in tourism.

“Several locally owned tourism investments are a better deal for tourism development in rural Africa and for narrowing the foreign investment gap” says Judy Kepher-Gona

There are many models for achieving increased local investments in tourism. Better options are those that rely on existing community assets, domestic market, and don’t require special land allocation. These options limit disruption of place and have high levels of revenue retention in destination. However, strategies for local investments in tourism are impeded by elaborate systems and pre-development plans/conditions, than make them exlcusive.

The home-hotel model is a case for consideration. Rural areas in Africa have many houses/land, lying idle, as owners work in cities. Airbnb has created opportunities for many of them to enter tourism supply system, but that does not narrow the investment gap.  If enabled, equipped and empowered, local homeowners can catalyse locally owned tourism investments in rural areas. What they require is support with designs that function well as home-hotels, booster development funds, market access and skills for management.

Here is a home-hotel model:
The owners of the holiday home pictured below set out to build a family home that became a home-hotel as friends requested to bring family for holidays. This 5 room holiday home is located on the shores of Lake Victoria in Uyoma village in Siaya County, Kenya, far from any big city. This photo was taken in 2018, when I visited the place to learn about the model.

The home engages local fishermen to offer boat rides, and rides to nearby islands. At night the lake is transformed into a “city of light” or “omena city” as artisan fishermen launch their nets in search of sardines (omena). The omena city is one of its unique selling point. The place offers camping options, a botanic garden with indigenous herbs and trees. Perfect for learning local names of trees. The waters on the beach are clean, great for a dip. The built environment is minimal. Level of revenue retention is high.

The land was family land set aside for a home. The construction happened over a period of time, as funds became available to the family. However, the design was right making it easy to double as a home-hotel. Material for construction was local and local builders were hired. The owners have not hired a hotel manager to run the place. They run it as their home. Clean and hygienic.

It is time for shift in mindsets and re-think national tourism development policies, which are designed to foreign investment, and focused on cities. The same way African destinations hire consultants to develop strategic plans, marketing strategies, MICE tourism, convention bureau’s etc., they should seek expertise in promoting local investment in tourism. This is important to boost revenue retention in destination and build destination resilience.

Pikidi Home/hotel, Siaya, Kenya – Image by Judy Kepher-Gona©

11th October 2021



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