Cape Town - Africa week has kicked off at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, with the overriding theme focusing on the Technology within the travel industry.
Nowhere in the industry has the importance of technology been clearer that in what Airbnb has achieved via online connectivity.
According to Velma Corcoran for Airbnb South Africa, Airbnb is changing the lives of middle-class micro-entrepreneurs completely.
At the World Travel Market Africa, taking place in Cape Town from 6 - 8 April, Corcoran says that the accommodation site uses technology as an enabler to share personal experiences with travellers - who are on the lookout for these moments.
The following trends are what makes it such a successful addition to the accommodation industry in Africa and the world at large:
1. The sharing economy – What’s mine is yours
Studies show that the global sharing economy is already worth more than 220 billion South African rand a year and could easily grow to 20 times that by 2026.
While it might still be early days for the sharing economy in Africa, the Airbnb data shows dynamic growth: Cape Town is the 21st biggest market in the world, and South Africa as a whole has half of the 40 000 homes currently being shared in Africa.
In South Africa alone the number of people staying in an Airbnb when travelling into South Africa is more than tripling every year; it seems like the sharing economy is gaining momentum in Africa.
Lena Sönnichsen for Airbnb in Africa and the Middle East says this is because the millennial market, a big part of Airbnb users, is also growing. "Beside that," she says, "travellers have a taste for something new, and Africa offers just this."
2. Unique accommodation – Love this? Live there!
It doesn’t have to be quite as extreme as the Shark Tank bedroom in the Paris Zoo that Airbnb introduced last week, but unusual and unique accommodations are definitely on the rise.
It’s no coincidence that Airbnb’s most booked listing is a treehouse and with 600 more to choose from that can be booked on Airbnb, many of those in Africa (along with more than 1 400 villas and 270 private islands) every African traveller can make his or her childhood dreams come true!
More than unique accommodation, Airbnb offers a very, very unique relationship between hosts and guests. "The host serves as the first friend in the destination for the travellers" Corcoran says. And these friendships go a long way.
At the World Travel Market, Nick Hall from Digital Tourism Think Tank, who is also an Airbnb host in Brussels, explained how numerous of his previous Airbnb guests contacted him after the Brussels bombs in March to see if he was doing well and if there was anything they could help him with.
Many other guests echoe these sentiments of new friendship made via Airbnb. In Cape Town, in the kitchen of an Airbnb-rented flat in Gardens, postcards from previous guests adorn the fridge, frequent Airbnb guest Louis Steyn says. "It makes me trust the host, and makes me feel as if I'm part of home," he says.
It's this host involvement that distinguishes the experience from conventional hotel accommodation experiences.
3. Staycations, bleisure and fake-cations blurring the lines
Airbnb data shows that South Africa is one of the few countries where more than 50% of all trips booked on Airbnb are domestic. According to Sönnichsen, this may be because of the weak rand forcing South Africans to stay within the borders of the country.
But if one thing is sure, the weak rand is not keeping South Africans from travelling - Staycations are a hot topic.
A quick getaway within South Africa or even a stay in one’s hometown - local Airbnb hosts that provide personal hospitality and tips make a staycation fun and help to see familiar neighbourhoods with the fresh eyes of the traveller!
SEE: 9 Budget staycation options for every South African
4. Cuba - A new era
President Obama’s historic visit to Cuba a few days ago marked the beginning of a new era between the two nations, with implications for the travel industry.
To mark the occasion, Airbnb announced that it will offer accommodations in Cuba to travellers from around the world on April 2 – the company’s one-year anniversary on the island. Approximately 4 000 homes in Cuba are bookable through Airbnb today, making Cuba the fastest-growing market in Airbnb history!
SEE: PICS: Why Airbnb in Cuba is the hottest new travel trend
Despite the economic gain Airbnb holds for hosts and guests, it's also a big win for national tourism as a whole. Corcoran says Airbnb studies found that Airbnb guests often say much longer than hotel guests, and also spend more in other areas of the tourism industry like food, souvenirs, clothing and more.
What to read next on Traveller24:
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- Airbnb announces payment changes for SA listings