Cape Town - Although the sharing economy has drastically changed the travel industry, it's still viewed as 'alternative' travel, and Airbnb wants to change it.
The travel disruption heavyweight is looking to offer more experience packages to its customers, becoming more than just an accommodation sharing platform, says South Africa's Airbnb country manager Velma Corcoran at the World Travel Market (WTM) Africa.
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South Africans welcomed almost 830 000 inbound guests in 2017, and about 551 000 travellers from South Africa used Airbnb on their overseas trips.
The average income for a South African host is R24 633 for an average of 17 nights per year from travellers from over 150 countries, while Cape Town takes the bulk share of income and nights booked.
The town with the biggest Airbnb listings growth is the sleepy town of Beaufort West in the Western Cape with a triple-digit growth percentage in the last year, though many appear to be guesthouses on the website.
This province has been earmarked by Airbnb for considerable investment, as well Africa as a whole.
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Searching made easier
Airbnb will be expanding its categories to make it easier for travellers to be specific about the kind of holiday they want and whether they'll be travelling for business or leisure. They will also provide collections of different types of accommodation.
Beyond by Airbnb will highlight luxury stays while Airbnb Plus will be a collection of super hosts personally verified by the website.
"Eventually you should be able to say you want to stay on a farm in Stellenbosch that’s self-catering with a view and a Jacuzzi," says Corcoran.
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Experiences that create memories for travellers
There will also be a big push to get more Airbnb Experiences listed. Cape Town was one of the first 12 cities to pilot the experiences programme, and currently sits with more than a hundred experience options. It will soon be expanded to other cities in South Africa.
Some 30% of experiences in Cape Town focus on social impact where 100% of the funds go to non-profit organisations. One NGO created an experience and the money generated helps with the costs of keeping their doors open. These kinds of experiences would have a 'social impact experience' banner at the top of the page for those interested in supporting these organisations.
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Airbnb's newly minted Office of Healthy Tourism will also partner with the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business to host the Africa Travel Summit in September 2018.
This three-day summit will bring together innovative thinkers from across the continent to discuss how technology can help shape a more sustainable and inclusive tourism that empowers underserved communities in Africa. The summit will also focus on how to build a resilient tourism that can support places in times of resource scarcity.
"We want to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere," says Corcoran.