Cape Town – Despite criticisms and clampdowns by cities of listings on Airbnb, their new data for 2017 appear to show positive impacts on local communities and getting tourists off the beaten track.

Currently the house sharing website has 4.85 million listings in over 191 countries around the world, citing that 79% of travellers prefer Airbnb because they want to live like a local, and 89% seeing it as more convenient than hotel locations.

Airbnb also believes their data shows how their service boosts the economy of the hosts’ communities, with 53% claiming the money they save on accommodation goes towards local businesses, and 44% of guests spend their money in the communities where they are staying.

Hosts are also incorporating green living into their listing – around 88% of them – and 43% use the income from Airbnb to pay for household expenses.

Impact on South Africa

South Africans are also raking in the monies, which 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.

City-wise, Cape Town takes the biggest chunk of Airbnb’s business, welcoming 350 000 travellers to the Mother City. The average host income and amount of nights are much higher than the national average – R39 348 for 27 nights per year.

Johannesburg only has 60 000 guest arrivals, and although it’s below the national average income – R15 969 per year – its average number of nights is higher at 24.

Durban has the lowest numbers, with 40 000 guest arrivals, with a host making R20 000 a year on an average of 13 nights in 2017.

“With travel and tourism growing faster than most of the rest of economy, it is critical that as many people as possible are benefiting – and right now not all tourism is created equal. To democratise the benefits of travel, Airbnb offers a healthy alternative to mass travel habits that have plagued some cities for decades,” says Airbnb’s Global Head of Policy and Communications, Chris Lehane.

New Airbnb initiatives

Airbnb has also announced that they have established an internal Office of Healthy Tourism and a Tourism Advisory Board.

The tourism office will investigate and promote activities that economically empower communities, drive travel to lesser-known places, and support environmentally-friendly travel habits.

The 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.

The advisory board consists of global tourism experts that will look for solutions to over-tourism and the issues that face Airbnb. The board consists of the following:

  • Taleb Rifai, the former Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
  • David Scowsill, Chief Executive of EON Reality Inc. and former President and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC)
  • Rosette Rugamba, Managing Director of Songa Africa and Amakoro Lodge and former Director General of Rwanda Tourism
  • Professor the Hon Bob Carr, the former Foreign Affairs Minister for Australia and former Premier of New South Wales

“These are all leaders of impeccable credentials who have worked to promote healthy tourism. With members from four different continents, we look forward to getting their perspectives to ensure Airbnb remains a solution to overtourism, and to tap their expertise to promote and drive healthy tourism around the world,” says Lehane.

Many restrictions have been placed on Airbnb in many major cities around the world, with some suing them for flouting local legislation in terms of rental properties for tourists, capping the number of days per host and claims that they have impacted on rental prices of properties for locals.

This article was first published by Traveller24 on 18 April 2018