Earlier this week President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that accredited and licensed accommodation businesses will be able to open.
No such luck, though, for Airbnb – which he mentioned by name in his address to the nation – and other home-sharing platforms such as Afristay.
Airbnb, probably unsurprisingly, is unhappy with this turn of events and is now seeking urgent clarity so that it can keep its hosts and would-be customers updated.
HOME-SHARING AN ECONOMIC LIFELINE FOR MANY
In a statement issued to Business Insider, the company said hosting was an economic lifeline for many of its hosts.
“All types of accommodation list on Airbnb – including hotels, entire homes and bed and breakfasts – and we are working with governments around the world to provide free accommodation to medical staff, prioritise public health through our enhanced cleaning protocol, and support economic recovery for local families, businesses and communities,” it said.
According to Business Insider, statistics from last year indicate that there are around 35 000 Airbnb hosts in South Africa, of which 65% are women.
AFRISTAY ACKNOWLEDGES A ‘TRICKY SITUATION’ FOR GOVT
Afristay, which offers a broadly similar service but is focused on South Africa and operated by South Africans, is in a similar situation.
In a response to My Broadband on the President’s announcement, Afristay CEO Rupert Bryant said the government was doing its best to manage a very tricky situation.
“The only sector they can really try to regulate and monitor is the accredited and licensed accommodation,” said Bryant. “It’s certainly not an easy situation to manage when you’re dealing with lives, but at the same time many livelihoods depend upon their jobs in the tourism sector.”
AIRBNB ALREADY HELPING WESGRO AND KZN TOURISM
In an announcement on 11 June, Airbnb said it is joining forces with Tourism KwaZulu-Natal and Wesgro – the tourism, trade and investment agency for the Western Cape – to promote domestic travel as lockdown measures start to ease in South Africa.
“Tapping into the demand for nearby trips, Airbnb is updating its platform to help guests rediscover the magic in their own backyards by making it easier to ‘Go Near’ and book local travel. This includes updating the Airbnb website and app to highlight nearby getaways,” the announcement said.
“Airbnb, Wesgro and TKZN will collaborate in a number of unique ways to drive domestic tourism and support these destinations with their recovery efforts. The partnerships are based on three central pillars: sharing travel trends and data on how South Africans are planning to travel as lockdown measures begin to ease, leveraging the Airbnb platform to shine a spotlight on featured regions (connecting guests to new, nearby destinations) and sharing tools to help both TKZN and Wesgro tap into online and in-person Experiences on Airbnb.”