Airbnb host earnings in smaller SA towns soar

By Dieketseng Montsi, Senior news journalist
Johannesburg, 01 Aug 2019

There has been a significant increase in host earnings on Airbnb in smaller towns in South Africa, due to guests choosing listings that enable them to explore local neighbourhoods, according to a report released this week.

The information is contained in a Genesis Analytics report, which looks at the period from June 2017 to May 2018. Genesis Analytics is an economics-based consulting firm in Africa.

The research aims to outline the growth of Airbnb’s tourism and the impact of the economic opportunities created for hosts in South Africa and beyond.

According to the report, Mossel Bay, for example, saw a year-on-year increase of over 80%, while Saldanha Bay in the Cape saw an increase of almost 60% over the same period. Host earnings in Garden Route towns such as Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and George increased by 48%, 58% and 74%, respectively.

The report states 1 788 hosts were surveyed and 651 guests responded to the survey, with Airbnb providing the information.

Founded in San Francisco in 2008, Airbnb is a community marketplace for people to list, discover and book unique accommodation around the world using the Web or mobile phone.

The accommodation ranges from a shared arrangement, to a room within a house (while hosts are present), to renting of a whole house (with no hosts present).

Velma Corcoran, Airbnb country manager for Sub-Saharan Africa, says visitors are discovering local hospitality and hidden gems they might have missed, while supporting new economies and revenue streams that help make local communities stronger.

“Travel on Airbnb is helping to spread tourism benefits to more families, communities and local businesses.”

According to the report, from June 2017 to May 2018, the home-sharing platform generated an estimated R8.7 billion for SA’s economy, while from September 2016 to September 2017, it generated roughly R3.6 billion.

The report notes that while Cape Town remains the most popular South African destination on Airbnb, guests are also discovering other destinations across the country.

Government thresholds

The report comes at a time when South Africa has proposed a new Tourism Amendment Bill which is set to be legislated under the Tourism Act.

The Bill, published in early April, proposes that small business owners using Airbnb or other home-sharing apps be subject to the same regulations applied to formal establishments such as hotels and guesthouses.

Many Airbnb hosts are not registered as businesses and, unlike formal establishments, are not registered with the South African Revenue Service to pay any taxes that are due.

Under the amendments, the minister of tourism will have the power to specify certain ‘thresholds’ when it comes to Airbnb in SA, which could include limits on the number of nights a guest can stay, or even how much income an Airbnb earns.

In May, tourism minister Derek Hanekom met with Airbnb’s representatives and Corcoran, as the department had called for the public to comment on the proposed Bill by 15 July.