CAPE TOWN – As we celebrate World Tourism Day today, Airbnb celebrates a successful pilot programme aimed at economically and socially empowering locals from underprivileged communities in South Africa through home sharing training.

The international online marketplace and hospitality service has been partnered with Open Africa, the South African College for Tourism and the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi) to launch the programme, first of its kind in South Africa.

The programme follows Airbnb’s vision to spread the diaspora of tourism which has been previously kept in the hands of a few.

The programme enabled local residents to host people in their homes whilst generating an income.

Notably, since its launch, 15 residents, mostly comprising of women have participated.

In its pilot phase, the programme consisted of 10 modules which taught local residents how to list their home on Airbnb, manage online payments as well as how to create a compelling guest experience.

“Airbnb is empowering people and communities that have not previously benefited from tourism. Through the Airbnb platform, people can finally gain access to the tourism industry, earn additional income and showcase the best of their community to guests from around the world”, said Country Manager South Africa at Airbnb, Velma Corcoran.

Although home sharing is central to the idea of the programme, individuals who do not own a home can also participate in the programme.

This can be done through Airbnb’s co-hosting feature which allows hosts to add co-hosts to their account such as family members or trusted friends to help with some of the hosting responsibilities.

On average, a host in South Africa shares their home for 16 days and earns an additional R28 000 a year, says Corcoran.

Home sharing has become a means of livelihood for half of South Africa’s hosts who use the income from hosting on Airbnb to help afford to stay in their homes.

Hence, Airbnb’s programme offers a stable income to previously unemployed individuals.

Likewise, Minister of Economic Opportunities in the Western Cape Government, Alan Winde recognises the value that home sharing brings to South Africa.

“Inclusive tourism expands access to the tourism sector, which employs over 200 000 people in the Western Cape. It is our goal to make sure that more residents are able to benefit from this growing sector. Platforms like Airbnb are enabling more people to participate in the tourism industry to earn additional income and, in turn, help support themselves, their families and their communities. The shared tourism economy also lets tourists learn and understand more about our people and our cultures”, says Winde.

In addition to this, Airbnb’s programme also forged new relationships between its participants.

“Before the training, I didn’t know many of the other women, who are now hosts on Airbnb. We were all interested, open-minded and loving. We’ve now formed our own community. We hold meetings once a week and decided to start a fund so we can travel to other group members if they need help. Our group is about helping each other and finding ways to motivate others from different communities”, said  a programme participant and host on Airbnb from Khayelitsha, Maria Maile.

Airbnb plans to spread its mark in South Africa with its visit from Airbnb’s Head of Public Policy and Public Affairs, Chris Lehane, who will be visiting South Africa in October to share more commitments to Africa.

Lehane will share more on how Airbnb is boosting African economies and how everyone can continue working together to spread tourism benefits to local families and their communities.

This article was first published by IOL on 27 September 2017.