Under the Kenyan Tourism Act No. 28 of 2011, no person is permitted to carry out tourism activities or services in the country without a licence. The applicable tourism activities and services are listed in the Ninth Schedule of the Act and are categorized into Classes “A” to “H” Enterprises.
The application for licensing is required to be made to the Tourism Regulatory Authority in Kenya using a prescribed form which can be downloaded from the Authority’s website. The licence granted is an annual licence which must be renewed every year. There is also supporting documentation that will need to be submitted together with the application depending on the person, entity or business seeking licensing.
Short term rentals and accommodation targeted at tourists fall under Class “A” Enterprises which includes hotels, motels, inns, hostels, serviced flats and apartments, beach and holiday cottages, villas, homestays, guest houses and time shares.
So for instance, if you are an individual who often offers a residential premise for short term stays on Airbnb or similar websites, then you are likely to be required to provide:
- Copies of the premises’ title deed or lease agreement;
- Copies of the insurance cover for the premises, its occupants and their property;
- A list or summary of any skilled or unskilled workers you may have on the premises;
- CV and copies of the relevant certificates of the manager managing the premises; and
- A copy of the manager’s letter of appointment.
If a company offering the same services, you will also be required to provide:
- A copy of your certificate of incorporation; and
- The Memorandum and Articles of Association of your company.
If offering food at the premises, you may also be required to provide:
- Health insurance and clearance certificates and medical certificates for food handlers at the premises.
The application fee for a licence is generally Ksh. 1,000 except for homestays which are charged Ksh. 500. The licence fee itself, however, varies depending on the kind of facility being offered. As at the time of this writing, serviced flats, apartments, villas, holiday cottages and time shares are charged a licence fee of Ksh. 26,000 per year, beach cottages are charged Ksh, 21,000 per year, hostels and guest houses are charged Ksh. 11,000 per year and homestays are charged between Ksh. 1,000 to 3,000 per year depending on whether the home is categorized as economy level, standard level or executive level. It therefore follows, that upon application, an inspection officer will be dispatched by the Authority to assess the premises, confirm if it meets the standards and requirements of the facility identified and confirm the licence fee payable.
The standards and requirements to be met by each facility are detailed in the First Schedule of the Tourism Regulatory Authority Regulations of 2014.
Once the licence is granted, it must then be prominently and conspicuously displayed within the premises and it applies only to the physical address for which it was applied. If you change locations, you must notify the Tourism Regulatory Authority of the change of address.
Failure to apply for a licence or to display it once granted is an offence under the Tourism Act and its Regulations and if convicted, a person can be fined up to Ksh. 100,000 or jailed for up to 18 months or both.
Applications for renewal of the license must be made within 3 months prior to the expiry of the licence. If you make your application after the expiry of the licence, you will be subject to a penalty of 10% of the license fee payable, for each month you are in default.
Duties of a Class “A” Enterprise Licensee
Once licensed, there are certain obligations or duties placed on a licence holder:
- Monthly Data Reporting
A licensee of a Class “A” Enterprise is required to submit to the Tourism Regulatory Authority a monthly data report detailing:
- Bed occupancy;
- Number of visitors by country of origin;
- Revenue earnings;
- Expenditure per visitor; and
- Number of employees both local and expatriates.
The form for this data report can also be downloaded from their website.
- Maintenance of a Register
An owner or manager of a licensed Class “A” enterprise is also required to keep a register at the premises detailing particulars of every guest, employee and trainee at the premises.
Given these detailed requirements for licensing of short term tourist rentals and the penalties that may be incurred for failure to comply with the Act and the Regulations, including jail terms and loss of licence if convicted of an offence under the Act or the Regulations, it is advisable for any person currently offering premises for rent to tourists on Airbnb or such other sites, to get in touch with the Tourism Regulatory Authority and commence the process of licensing and inspection.