Airbnb outlines contribution to South African economy

South Africa: Airbnb says it has supported 22,000 jobs and has had an economic impact of US$648 million in the country over the past year.

Speaking at a three-day summit in Cape Town which Airbnb is hosting, head of global policy and public affairs Chris Lehane said its latest economic impact report had indicated that three out of the eight fastest-growing Airbnb countries were in Africa.

The Africa Travel summit, which is hosting more than 200 delegates from across Africa, is part of Airbnb’s $1 million investment in boosting community-led tourism projects in Africa.

Lehane said that two million guests have stayed at Airbnb listings in SA since its establishment ten years ago while figures for Africa as a whole showed that this figure was at three million.

Nigeria, Ghana and Mozambique were three of the eight fastest growing Airbnb countries, he added. In SA, Cape Town was the most popular location Johannesburg, Durban, Pretoria and George also saw growth.

“There is an African proverb that says you vote with your feet. We want to make sure tourism benefits as many people as possible,” said Lehane. “It is very important for Airbnb as outsiders to listen and learn from locals. Last year we made three commitments regarding Africa. Firstly to hold this summit; secondly to launch Airbnb experiences; and thirdly to open an Airbnb academy in Khayelitsha, Cape Town in order to enable more people to benefit from international tourism.”

Lehane pointed out that a large number of millennials are entering the travel market and three out of four wanted to spend time on authentic experiences. In his view, SA and the rest of Africa could benefit from that: “As we go into an age of automation, travel and tourism is one of the areas where you need people. People connection creates economic opportunity for real people. Airbnb hosts in SA have already earned $260 million,” said Lehane.