Airbnb sees spread of SA experience beyond the conventional

2016-05-31 13:04 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - The typical South African Airbnb host who occasionally shares space in their home is said to boost their yearly income by more than R28 000. 

This is according to the latest data announced by the world’s leading community-driven hospitality company, which it says indicates "positive impacts of the growing Airbnb community in South Africa".

So who are the South Africans opening up their homes for holiday rental so visitors can experience what it means to "live in SA"?

Airbnb says in 2015 there were 7 500 active hosts in South Africa and almost half were freelancers, entrepreneurs, or self-employed, with the same number stating that "welcoming guests helps them afford to stay in their home" as latest data also indicates that 66 % of hosts share space in their primary residence.

"The way people travel is changing, too, driven by a new economy where people place greater value on experiences over ownership," according to Nicola D’Elia, General Manager for Airbnb Africa and Middle East.  

D'Elia shared some of his own experiences with Airbnb during a media launch, held at upmarket 85 Oceanview Drive Airbnb listing in Cape Town. 

D'Elia says he has stayed in a number of Airbnb listings in Cape Town that have allowed him to experience an alternative side of city and highlights an emerging trend that sees a better spread of the tourism economy, across more of South Africa.

According to D'Elia listings are not only concentrated in the tourist-centric places such as hotels and data indicates that visitors are in fact staying longer as a result of the share-economy offering. 

“Airbnb is good news for everyone, providing an economic boost for thousands of South Africans, helping them make ends meet and support their families by hosting on Airbnb. 27% of visitors to Cape Town for example - Airbnb’s largest market in South Africa - tell us that they wouldn’t have come at all or stayed as long if it hadn’t been for Airbnb. Half of those guests spend more money in local shops and restaurants, often following their hosts’ recommendations. Even if it’s just for a night, staying with local hosts will allow visitors to really live there.”

Regional marketing consultant for Airbnb, Velma Corcoran echoed this sentiment, highlighting that Airbnb listings allow for a more authentic travel experience that unlocks a personalised stay as guests receive top recommendations for the neighbourhoods they choose to stay in that might otherwise not have been considered.  

With more than 130 000 guests having stayed in a listing on Airbnb in South Africa in the last year alone, enjoying authentic and local travel experiences through their hosts’ personal hospitality and insider knowledge, this number represents a 250% increase in travellers on Airbnb compared to 2014.

And the regular Airbnb visitor to SA?

Hosts and guests on Airbnb are older than one might think with the average host being 44-years-old and guests aged 37 on average. 

Take Airbnb host Andrew Norris as an example, who shared how he got into the hosting game at the media event. The Irishman who has been living in Cape Town for 20 years says he just "LOVES the Cape life!"

"I have been a host on the Airbnb platform for just over a year and a half now, starting off with listing a private room in my main house and then adding my apartment onto my listings.  

Norris says, to date he has had over 50 bookings with guests from over 25 countries, and fully embraces the Airbnb ecosystem. 

"I especially enjoy the hosting element and it has made me many good friends as they travel through and to Cape Town."

"I enjoy meeting new people, so as an Airbnb host I get to meet people from all over the world and all walks of life. I try provide them with as much insight as possible into the hidden treasures and great tourist attractions I have discovered over the years.  

"The bonus is, I get to earn a living from doing what I love too."

Tim Harris, CEO at Wesgro, the tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape says, “Cape Town and the Western Cape is a world class tourism destination. Thanks to Airbnb, more travellers can enjoy the natural beauty our country has to offer in an authentic way.

According to Harris, the partnership is vitally important to the province for three reasons - He acknowledged it was a powerful means to drive the tourism brand of Cape Town, through technology that establishes the city as a leader on the continent all the while encouraging the idea of openness, hospitality and service across the city's residents that have an reputation for being rather "insular and closed off".

Harris also says, "It’s great to see that outside Cape Town, Knysna is the second most popular town with the Airbnb community. This shows how Airbnb hosts are helping to drive visitors across the province, allowing them to experience more of the Western Cape with their local hosts."  

INFOGRAPHIC: Airbnb comminuity in South Africa