How to Earn from Tourism in East Africa: Invest in these Digital Opportunities

Zebras at Sanctuary Farm.

Tourism contributes immensely to the economy of East African countries. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Report, travel and tourism activities in Kenya accounted for 399,000 employment opportunities in 2016. Indirectly, this industry contributed to over 1m jobs in Kenya. In Tanzania, the report about Tanzania notes, in 2016, travel and tourism contributed to 1,389,000 jobs whether directly or indirectly.

The digital age has increased investment opportunities in the travel and tourism industry. You don’t have to quit your 8 to 5 to make some money from the lucrative tourism industry. Remember, market forces affecting traditional businesses also affect online investments. Therefore, set up your investment and watch it endure all the forces in the market.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Become a host

The world is opening up to personalised accommodation outside hotels and other traditional accommodation facilities. Have you heard about home stay? Well, this buzzword refers to an alternative accommodation service for tourists, in a local’s home. Both the host and the guest benefit from such a set-up. The host earns financially while the guest saves on accommodation and stays in a homely setting.  Popular websites where you can list your room are Homestay and Airbnb.  In some, such as Airbnb, the guest pays the company, a percentage is deducted as commission and you get the rest.

There are of course concerns about the safety of guests and the lack of stringent scrutiny of guests to protect hosts. Other issues raised around the world are by landlords opposed to this business-centred room sharing in residential houses.  Despite these arguments against home stays, this type of accommodation service is flourishing. You will be amazed by the number of rooms for rent listed by East Africans on websites like Airbnb.

You can become a host in any part of East Africa, as long as you have a comfortable room for guests to stay. The room should have sufficient amenities for a goodnight’s sleep. It should be in a secure neighbourhood.

If you live in a one bedroom house, a bedsitter or other small property that cannot host a guest, you can rent another house or apartment and furnish it for your guests.

Creating a profile and listing your room is not a guarantee you will receive guests, but here are some ways to improve your listing.

  • Get reviews. When you host, request every guest to review your property online because positive reviews boost authenticity.
  • Fill out your listing profile to its entirety from pictures to your contact details.
  • Have a cook on call or available to your guests. Some hosts charge room rates inclusive of meals.
  • Undertake all the verification requirements by the website you are listing your room. They might ask for personal details like your email address, ID number and credit card number.
  • Indicate the precise location of your room for rent. For example, if you are offering space in Ngara, Nairobi, the actual coordinates of your room are not Nairobi but Ngara.
  • Indicate whether you are offering a one-time space or it is available anytime.
  • Get quality, current images of your room. Include a photo of the room, the living area, the kitchen, the bathroom and any other facility available to guests.
  • List all the amenities clearly. For example, there is a difference between a room for rent with an en-suite bathroom and one with a shared bathroom.
  • Price your room depending on the amenities provided.

House sitting

Most East Africans living in the city have another house in the rural areas. In Kenya’s slang, we call it ushago or ocha. So, when you leave the city for your rural home, rent out your house to a house sitter. Easter and Christmas are great seasons to make some money from house sitting. There will be someone to watch your house and maintain it while you enjoy your holiday in ocha. When listing your house, on websites like Trusted House Sitters, indicate the duration you will be gone. For example, a house sitter wanted from 12th December – 3rd January.

Become a local guide

Local guides are in demand in major towns as well as in the countryside. For example, a person with training in tourism or with vast experience in tour guiding can join Tours by Locals and offer regular guided tours.

On Tours by Locals, you design packages and itineraries and the company takes care of marketing and revenue collection.  You can offer guided tours of local attractions or offer advice to visitors looking for restaurants to eat while in the city. The former requires extensive professional training in tour guiding.

Sell pictures

Sell your collection of pictures to media and advertising agencies, travel websites and individuals. You can do so online through websites like Shutterstock and Getty Images. You must own the images you want to sell, they should be new (not used elsewhere), and they must be high resolution images. Images of wildlife, buildings and nature are in high demand. Pictures that show actual faces require proof of consent from people in the pictures to avoid lawsuits later.

We cannot all work directly in the travel and tourism industry, but we can make some money from opportunities arising in this sector.


Please note that the examples in this article are just to give you an idea about investment opportunities in the travel and hospitality industry. I am not endorsing those companies in any way, and you must do your research before taking up their offers.

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *