Airbnb Academy trains next tourism entrepreneurs

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga
Johannesburg, 06 Mar 2024
South African Airbnb hosts earn an average of R33 000 a year.
South African Airbnb hosts earn an average of R33 000 a year.

The Airbnb Entrepreneurship Academy has steadily grown since inception, creating more tourism entrepreneurship opportunities in SA and across the continent.

According to the company, since inception in 2017, the academy has set up training boot camps in underserved communities, reaching 1 300 people that have been trained in person and online in SA and Kenya alone.

Globally, the academy has grown from supporting one organisation to over 40, with 2023 marking the largest cohort of partners yet, it says.

The Airbnb Entrepreneurship Academy is a three-month entrepreneurship development programme focused on introducing individuals from diverse and underrepresented communities to hosting on the Airbnb platform, run in collaboration with local community partners.

In an interview with ITWeb, Velma Corcoran, regional lead for Middle East and Africa at Airbnb, said the academy seeks to create the next generation of tourism entrepreneurs, while empowering underrepresented communities to eradicate systemic barriers that may hinder them from entering the industry in future.

“We made a commitment to establish the Airbnb Academy in South Africa because there is a bunch of systemic barriers that make it hard for locals, especially women, to become tourism entrepreneurs.

“Key barriers include lack of awareness, knowledge, trust, digital access and digital connectivity. We designed the academy with the aim to help our hosts to overcome these barriers,” explainedCorcoran.

The programme entails four core modules, covering topics such as an introduction to Airbnb and the opportunities the platform can offer, as well as trust and confidence on the platform, including the review system.

The majority of academy students are South Africans who may have a room to rent out, or a spare cottage and don’t know how to use it to make extra money through a side-hustle.

As the academy grows, more new hosts set up listings on the platform, with local hosts earning an average of R33 000 a year, Corcoran added.

This has seen SA’s domestic tourism on the Airbnb platform increase by 33% from 2019 to 2023 and it continues to grow.

In 2022, the online accommodation booking platform supported almost 50 000 jobs and contributed more than R23.5 billion to the South African gross domestic product, according to an Airbnb Economic Impact report, compiled by independent consultancy Genesis Analytics and commissioned by Airbnb.

Over the past two years, more than 300 product updates have been made available on the home-sharing platform, as part of its continuous global efforts to innovate.

Partnerships with community stakeholders, public and private entities play a key role in identifying students and helping them with setting up their business and support with important resources, she noted.

“We work with partners who understand the local communities and who can also identify hosts who are trusted. We also had to partner with other organisations within the ecosystem who can help us in assisting hosts to overcome some of these systemic barriers.

“For example, we have partnered with TooMuchWifi, to help hosts with connectivity. We also did a project where we provided our hosts with uninterruptible power supply units to circumvent the impact of load-shedding.”

According to Corcoran, of late the academy has been focusing on training hosts that have come through the academy to also become facilitators. The new strategy is aimed at transforming the academy model to make it more scalable and reach many people.

“Having diverse hosts across the country is key to the overall success of the business. The academy works with local partners to identify candidates that may have authentic tourism experiences to offer. There are many tourists around the globe who are seeking unique, authentic and interesting experiences, and if we can match the supply to this demand, it will help us grow our overall business in the region.”

Last year, Airbnb established a partnership with the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ’s) School of Tourism and Hospitality, to bring the Airbnb Academy to at least 1 000 students over three years.

“We are now getting to a point where the programme will be embedded into the UJ curriculum. At the moment, it’s offered as part of the work-assisted learning initiative.

“The aim of this partnership is for students to learn more about opportunities within the sector and adopt an entrepreneurship mind-set,” concludesCorcoran.