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Airbnb says it contributed R23.5bn to SA’s economy last year – and there’s plenty of room for growth

Airbnb says it contributed R23.5bn to SA’s economy last year – and there’s plenty of room for growth
The Airbnb website. Airbnb ended 2023 stronger than analysts’ had expected but it believes that demand in the current quarter wouldn’t be as robust as the last. (Photo: Gabby Jones / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The online marketplace says short-term rentals are not only helping South Africans earn money, they provide guests with stays in parts of the country that are not traditionally deemed tourist destinations

Short-term rentals are boosting South Africa’s economy by contributing more than R23.5-billion to the GDP – and that’s from a single platform: Airbnb.

The online marketplace for short- and longer-term stays says its new report, for which it commissioned Genesis Analytics, shows Airbnb has more than doubled its contribution to tourism and grown job creation by 70% since 2019.

The report was released in the run-up to the Airbnb Africa Travel Summit which takes place on Tuesday, bringing together policymakers, tourism experts, innovators and others from across the continent.

Most of that growth has come via domestic travel, which has been consistently higher than regional and international travel on the platform. And 60% of Airbnb guests in SA were domestic travellers, who sustained the local tourism sector throughout the Covid pandemic.

Although about two-thirds of total host earnings came from the Western Cape, domestic guests travelling through Airbnb help to spread the value of tourism to different parts of the country.

Some of the fastest-growing destinations on Airbnb are outside traditional hotspots too. Six of the country’s 10 fastest-growing sites on Airbnb between 2019 and 2022 are located outside of traditional tourist hotspots of Cape Town, the Kruger Park and Gauteng. With Witzenberg in the Western Cape the only exception, none of the 10 fastest-growing cities and towns on the platform are from the main tourism provinces.

On average, Airbnb guests report guests spend an additional R3,000 ($158) per day on entertainment, dining and other non-accommodation expenses – more than 50% taking place in the listing’s local neighbourhood.

On average, the typical South African host earned around R32,500 last year, which amounted to about R4-billion in total host earnings – a 25% increase from pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

The top 10 cities and towns with the fastest-growing stays on Airbnb are:

  1. Mafube, Free State;
  2. Impendle, KwaZulu-Natal
  3. Nala, North West
  4. AbaQulusi, KwaZulu-Natal
  5. Witzenberg, Western Cape
  6. Emalahleni, Mpumalanga
  7. Hantam, Northern Cape
  8. Mahikeng, North West
  9. Chief Albert Luthuli, Mpumalanga
  10. Emakhazeni, Mpumalanga

Velma Corcoran, regional lead Middle East Africa at Airbnb, said the Africa Travel Summit, held in Johannesburg this week, will draw participants from across the continent. “It’s a conversation about how we can scale the kind of economic impact that we’ve seen in South Africa and other places around the continent. And how do we have productive and constructive relationships with authorities from all around Africa.”

Airbnb, she stressed, has a good relationship with South Africa’s Tourism Ministry, and has long called for regulation to develop a national registry.

“We have been calling for short-term rental regulation for a very long time, because we think it’s a good thing. It provides certainty and clarity for our hosts, and we think that it’s a perfect time for South Africa to develop some new rules that will make it easy for everyday South Africans to share their homes … but doing it in such a way that you give local authorities the tools and evidence that they need to in more stringent regulations to stop bad actors.”

Corcoran said Airbnb believed there was immense potential for inclusive growth in South African tourism, and was committed to making travel and hosting more accessible, safe, diverse and affordable for everyone.

“We are proud to have more than doubled our economic impact, meaning more South Africans in more places are benefiting from increasingly local and inclusive tourism. We look forward to continuing to work together with the government and wider tourism industry to create more economic opportunities for locals and showcase the best of South Africa to domestic and international guests.”

Of Airbnb’s top 200 jurisdictions, 80% had some form of regulation in place, she said, adding that the platform worked hand-in-hand with those governments to ensure that all hosts were aware of the regulations and that they were supported with compliance.

Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille would deliver the welcome address at the summit, Corcoran said. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Phil Baker says:

    How much do the other platforms; Booking.com, Tripadvisor, VRBO, Lekkerslap etc also contribute to total tourism income?

    How many of these oblige the payments to be made in RAND in SA? not offshore?
    ±20% of any booking never enters the country on these platforms

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