Nairobi Airport Hotel - The Story

A Side Hustle that Became a Business Empire

By coincidence, Norwegian collegemates Endre Opdal and Håvar Bauck found themselves living in the same neighbourhood in Nairobi, ten years after graduating in their home country

With a shared passion for business, they were always discussing new ideas, until they realised an obvious gap in the market: There were no budget hotels next to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Five Budget Apartments Became Kenya's First "AirBnB"

The two friends contacted the management of the then newly constructed Five Star Garden estate in Syokimau, next to the airport. With five budget apartments, some reasonable furniture, and a business-minded car owner providing the airport transfer, the stage was set. The first short-term rental service in East Africa was a fact. This was in 2013, before anyone in Kenya had heard about AirBnB.

Few hotels in Kenya had thought about online marketing. Nairobi Airport Hotel was the 13th hotel in Nairobi to be listed on On Expedia, there was even less competition!

The project was a resounding success. The apartments were fully booked from Day 1. In 2014, Nairobi Airport Hotel became the most-booked property on in Nairobi, above international giants like Hilton and Intercontinental!

A First Move that Triggered a Wave

From the moment go, Bauck and Opdal were met with curiosity from people who found their innovative project incredibly exciting.

Before long, copycats launched similar ventures, and three years down the road, that trickle became a flood.

The business model they had pioneered what later became a megatrend in Nairobi, known as the “AirBnB business”.  The Founders, however, saw even more growth potential in selling their digital marketing concept to hotels, and launched Savanna Sunrise, a pioneer in Africa’s travel technology space. 

By 2017, AirBnBs were all over Nairobi, and the Syokimau area was flooded with competitors. By then, Savanna Sunrise was skyrocketing across East Africa.  Nairobi Airport Hotel had become a small side business with ever-shrinking margins in a crowded market.

As they merged Savanna Sunrise into what became HotelOnline, Africa’s leading travel technology innovator, the Founders eventually discontinued Nairobi Airport Hotel in May 2018.

The next time you stay in an AirBnB in Nairobi, remember where it all started!

Are you a hotelier looking for ways to increase revenue?

Reach out to HotelOnline today. We are there for you!

The Founders

Håvar Bauck

Håvar Bauck