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

2017-03-08 19:00
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Cape Town - Take a walk into Belinda Bowling’s De Waterkant home and you’ll know that it’s anything but ordinary.

The concierge used to live on the streets, the cleaner hails from the Eastern Cape, and a Zimbabwean refugee manages the house to ensure it functions optimally for guests.

Belinda has been hosting on Airbnb for about a year and the opportunity has enabled her to economically empower fellow South Africans, who have been less fortunate than her.“It’s not only me who is benefiting – others, especially those less economically fortunate than me, are also reaping rewards from this micro-enterprise," says Bowling.

"For me personally, Airbnb embodies the spirit of ‘Ubuntu’, a community-driven foundation of South African culture: ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’.”

Gender pay gap between men and women is well-documented' 

In a first Airbnb study on the economic potential of its female hosts the platform states it is "empowering a growing worldwide community of women hosts who are connecting with guests, each other, and their local communities".

While Airbnb says it cannot single-handedly tear down the many obstacles to empowerment that women face worldwide, the platform says it is powered by a growing worldwide community of women hosts who are connecting with guests, each other, and their local communities.  

WATCH: Cape Town listed in new Airbnb Trips offering that moves beyond accommodation

Historically, women hosts have outnumbered men hosts around the world and, since Airbnb was founded in 2008, women hosts have earned over $10 billion (estimated more than 130 billion rand) through the platform.

Belinda is one of more than 14 000 female Airbnb hosts in South Africa, women represent 63% of the local host community. And their earning potential according to the study averages about US$2 000 or R25 380 a month. About 18% of them work part-time and 80% have hosted at least one international guest.  

Airbnb says in 2016, the typical woman host earned about US: $6 600 USD.  Top earners are host countries Japan at over US$10 000, followed by Spain $3 600 USD or 3,290 EUR, South Africa's host earnings at US$2 000 rank third, with Brazil in fourth at US$1 750 USD. 

The platform is confident in its ability to add extra income in countries with developing economies.

"In Kenya, the typical woman host earns enough from Airbnb to cover over one-third of the average annual household expenditure. In India it covers 31 percent; and in Morocco, 20 percent," it says. 

'Interesting socio-political history intrigues guests' 

And for Belinda her South African story together with the hosting empowers her even more.

She says she has found that her guests were intrigued to learn about South Africa's interesting socio-political history through her eyes. 

“It’s an utterly unique experience,” she says, adding that operating an Airbnb has also given her the opportunity to connect with people from all corners of the globe.

“In today’s technologically-driven world, where we are more connected yet ironically more disconnected than ever, I love that Airbnb allows me to connect so authentically with people from all walks of life around the globe. Most of my guests arrive as visitors, but leave as friends.”

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