Airbnb's R2.4bn SA economy boost: A look at the year that was

2017-05-15 13:52 - Louzel Lombard Steyn
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Cape Town - It's no secret that international accommodation sharing platform Airbnb has changed the travel landscape and how we experience new destinations. 

This is true for the travellers, as well as the hosts and locals benefitting from the ever-growing platform. According to an overview of the Airbnb community in South Africa for 2016, released to coincide with the Tourism Indaba taking place in Durban this month, the company injected an estimated R2.4 billion boost into SA's economy. 

ALSO READ: President Zuma in Durban to officially open Indaba 2017

According to Nicola D'Elia, managing director for Africa and the Middle East at Airbnb, the numbers are a clear indication "that Airbnb supports regular South Africans to share their home while growing and diversifying the tourism industry across the country”. 

More than this, the report also shows that South African hosts welcomed almost 400 000 guests into their homes in 2016 alone - including close to 150 000 South Africans. 

READ: Airbnb helping Capetonians open up more - Wesgro

Diversifying tourism while loving local 

The Airbnb report shows how the platform helps grow the community and diversify tourism in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, especially. Hosts in these cities have welcomed an estimated 240 000 guest arrivals, boosting their local economies with a combined R1.9 billion in the last year. 

More than this, over 70% of guests visiting these cities indicated they chose Airbnb to explore a specific neighbourhood.

"Travelling on Airbnb helps guests discover communities they might have missed and spreads benefits to more families and local businesses," the Airbnb report says. So instead of taking tourists to the usual tourist hotspots, visitors are injecting revenue and value into lesser known neighbourhoods and businesses.   

The report further indicates a positive outlook on domestic travel. In 2016, 37% percent of guests were South African, with a majority coming from Johannesburg. 

This is where most local Airbnb guests hail from locally in 2016... 

While the map below indicates where the most international Airbnb visitors to SA come from last year... 

Overall, there are 16 000 hosts who have hosted last year in South Africa, spread across the entire country. The typical South African Airbnb host is an average of 45 years old and shares their home for 16 days a year, earning an additional R28 000 a year. 

HAVE YOU READ: SA's Airbnb female hosts closing the economic divide: 'It embodies the spirit of Ubuntu’

Half of the hosts in South Africa use the income from hosting on Airbnb to help afford to stay in their homes, while 40% of hosts are freelancers, entrepreneurs or self-employed.

A new way of travel 

Airbnb visitors are no conventional tourists either, as 85% indicate that they want to live like a local and 30% of all visitors said they would not have stayed as long as they did in the country were it not for the home-sharing platform. 

ALSO READ: Millennials in travel: How are they different, if at all?

Guests on Airbnb in South Africa stay an average of 4.3 days per trip and over 30% of guests indicate they would not have come or stayed as long in South Africa without Airbnb. 

ALSO SEE: Cape Town interior designer adds artistic dimension to Airbnb

Internationally, Airbnb has come under fire for not abiding by short-term rental laws and bylaws. In New York last week, for example, an Airbnb host Yelena Yelagina was ordered to pay a $1 000 (R13 645) fine to the city for advertising her Trump Tower apartment on Airbnb. It is against the law in New York to rent out an entire apartment for less than 30 days without the owner present, and the new law in New York City now bans advertising short-term listings, such as Airbnb.

In South Africa, tourism authorities are singing a different tune and have welcomed platforms like Airbnb as a booster to the industry overall.

Speaking  during his budget briefing in March, Minister of Economic Opportunities in the Western Cape Alan Winde says unlike in Germany and France, the platform will not be slowed down in Cape Town.

READ MORE HERE: Airbnb regulations scrutinised: US Trump Tower's listing sees $1K fine issued

Winde says SA has become the first government that “requires all proposed legislation to be subjected to a Regulatory Impact Assessment before it is passed. In our province, we will not tolerate businesses being slowed down by unnecessary regulations."

As the lucrative industry expands, Airbnb's D’Elia says the company has only good intentions for tourism and the people that uphold the tourism industry. "Airbnb allows regular South Africans to enjoy the benefits of tourism and is opening new economic opportunities for local families and communities," she says.

"We want to be good partners to everyone in South Africa and support the responsible and sustainable growth of innovative forms of travel." 

The Airbnb report comes 1.5 years after the launch of the Airbnb Community Compact, where Airbnb pledged to work with governments and tourism organisations alike. It is based on internal company data from 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2016.

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