Airbnb booming in South Africa – with the economy set to benefit

Airbnb has doubled its contribution to South Africa’s GDP since 2019, and the economic benefit was not concentrated in the country’s main tourism hotspots.

AirBnB’s regional lead for Middle East Africa, Velma Corcoran, told CNBC Africa that this signals true tourism recovery in the country following the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to a report from Genesis Analytics, the service contributed more than R23.5 billion to the economy and created almost 50,000 jobs in 2022.

News24 recently reported that there are currently more Airbnb sites in Cape Town than in Amsterdam, San Francisco and Singapore combined.

Inside Airbnb estimated that there are around 21,000 Airbnbs in Cape Town alone.

Corcoran said Airbnb’s influence is not limited to South Africa’s main tourist hubs like Cape Town and Stellenbosch.

She said seven of the platform’s ten fastest-growing places are outside the country’s main tourism hotspots.

The platform has also seen a 33% increase in domestic travel from 2019 to 2023. This means that the economic benefit of tourism is being spread across the country.

In addition to the economic benefits of Airbnb accommodation, Corcoran said guests spend an average of R3,000 a day in non-accommodation-related costs when visiting an Airbnb. This, therefore, also supports local economies.

She attributes this to Airbnb’s platform being designed to make it easy for people to discover what they are looking for, independent of location.

For example, users can look for destinations with a view of nature rather than just a destination in a specific place.

Corcoran said the economic benefit is also not limited to wealthy South Africans, as their data shows Airbnb is often used as a lifeline Lifeline for ordinary South Africans trying to make ends meet.

According to Corcoran, 50% of hosts say they are hosting to afford the rising cost of living, and typical South African hosts make around R33,000 from Airbnb a year.


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