Our township tourism treasure chest gets a major boost from Airbnb

Empowering townships through hosting

Airbnb will invest US$1 million by 2020 to promote and support community-led tourism projects in Africa. The commitment is part of Airbnb’s vision to empower communities through home-sharing and to promote people-to-people tourism that benefits local families and their communities. 

The investment will be put to work in 2018 and will focus in three main areas:

·           Empowering townships through hosting: As part of Airbnb’s belief that home-sharing can support greater economic and social empowerment, Airbnb ran a pilot programme earlier in 2017 – together with local partners – to support training in hospitality and technology for residents from townships across the Western Cape. Given its success, Airbnb will expand the programme, which is specifically targeted at women and young people from underserved communities, to 15 more township communities across South Africa, and scale the programme to other countries in Africa in 2019. 

I just see myself as being a part of the whole world. It’s opened up so many doors and I can already see I have such a bright future.

·           Promoting sustainable and inclusive tourism through technology: Airbnb’s vision is to use technology to help spread the benefits of tourism, previously kept in the hands of a few, to many. In May 2018, Airbnb will host the Africa Travel Summit in Cape Town and bring together 80 thought leaders from across the continent to share best practices, exchange ideas and co-create a vision for how technology can best be used for inclusive and sustainable tourism growth.

·           Supporting locals and non-profit organisations through Airbnb travel: Part of Airbnb’s vision is to promote people-to-people travel that helps generate new revenue streams for more communities. This will help more locals to turn their passions into economic opportunities, and showcase the best authentic experiences that guests might otherwise miss. Airbnb will particularly focus on increasing social impact experiences – the proceeds of which go directly to a non-profit organisation. 

Chris Lehane, global head of Public Policy and Public Affairs for Airbnb, says: “Africa is home to some of the most welcoming communities and breath-taking landscapes on earth. By leveraging technology to boost people-to-people tourism in Africa, we can help build a new economic engine for local families and their communities, while helping more guests to enjoy magical travel experiences through the eyes of locals. Airbnb travel is already delivering significant economic benefits for Africa, and our investment will help kickstart new benefits for more people across Africa.”

Airbnb’s township pilot programme – developed in collaboration with Open Africa, the South African College for Tourism and the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi) – was the first of its kind by Airbnb in South Africa to support underserved communities to better their futures through tourism. It consists of 10 modules and focuses on everything from exploring how people can list their home on Airbnb to managing online payments and creating a compelling guest experience. Since its launch, 15 residents – mostly women – from townships across the Western Cape have already participated. The programme is open to everyone, including people who do not own their own homes, thanks to 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. They can help with as much or as little as is needed, and can then split the Airbnb income. 

With Experiences, Airbnb offers unprecedented access to local communities and interests, while Places lets people discover the hidden gems of a city, as recommended by the people who live there. Airbnb is people-powered and the easiest way to earn a little extra income from extra space in a home or from sharing passions, interests and cities.

Home-sharing club

Airbnb recently pioneered the first collaboration agreement between a government authority in Africa to encourage local communities to join a Home Sharing Club, made up of locals who open their homes to visitors from across the world. Cape Town home-sharers Mawande Kondlo, Lydia Masoleng, Juliet (Tiny) Gobeni and Maria Maile– who met through the pilot training programme – pioneered this idea locally. As a result, Cape Town is the first African city to have an Airbnb Home Sharing Club.

This Cape Town Home Sharing Club is called Tirisano (‘to work together’ in Tswana), and its members have plans in place to launch a number of volunteer activities to support different communities in the Western Cape. They are also using this platform to encourage people from different communities to open their homes to those wanting an authentic local stay in Cape Town. Whether you have five extra rooms or just one, there is a visitor looking for what you have to offer.  

Like other Airbnb Home Sharing Clubs around the world, part of this programme aims to bring hosts together to share their knowledge and come up with unique ideas for their areas. It is a space and a place where likeminded hosts and Airbnb community members can get together to share their thoughts and ideas around the concept of home-sharing. 

Africa has more than 100 000 homes listed on Airbnb that have welcomed more than 2 million guest arrivals to the continent, generating a total economic impact of US$247 million in South Africa last year alone. Over the past year, Airbnb hosts in Cape Town welcomed close to 300 000 visitors, resulting in an estimated economic boost of R2.4 billion for the city.

“I just see myself as being a part of the whole world. It’s opened up so many doors and I can already see I have such a bright future,” says Maria Maile, a host from Khayelitsha.