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Airbnb pledges $1m to African 'community' tourism

Lauren Kate Rawlins
By Lauren Kate Rawlins, ITWeb digital and innovation contributor.
Johannesburg, 17 Oct 2017
Airbnb has more than 100 000 listings in Africa.
Airbnb has more than 100 000 listings in Africa.

Airbnb, the app-based hospitality booking site, will invest $1 million through 2020 to promote and support community-led tourism projects in Africa.

There are three main areas where the money will be put to use to begin with, from next year.

The first area is expanding its host-training programme to townships in SA. A pilot ran earlier this year in the Western Cape, which - together with local partners - trained potential hosts located in townships in hospitality and how to use the Airbnb technology.

The expanded programme - which focuses on women - will reach 15 more township communities across SA, and then scale to other countries in Africa in 2019.

The second area is promoting sustainable and inclusive tourism through technology. Airbnb will host an Africa Travel Summit in May next year in Cape Town to encourage this notion.

The summit will bring together 80 thought leaders from across the continent. Potential attendees - such as governments, tourism boards, development agencies, technology companies, incubators and individuals - can apply to attend. Applications will be open until the end of January next year.

Summit partners include the World Bank Group, the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative and the United Nations World Travel Organisation.

"Tourism in Africa is expected to continue its rapid growth. It is vital to ensure this growth occurs sustainably and drives poverty reduction across the continent. It is encouraging to see travel technology platforms such as Airbnb investing in Africa, and piloting more inclusive forms of tourism growth," says Hermione Nevill, senior travel specialist at the World Bank Group.

The third area of the investment will go towards supporting locals and non-profits through Airbnb travel, expanding its new 'Airbnb Experiences' option.

Experiences allows hosts or tour guides to upload an 'experience' to the site that travellers can book. For example, violin-making in Paris or marathon-running in Kenya. This option was previously only available in the Western Cape; it will now be expanded to other parts of the country and Africa.

Airbnb will focus on increasing Social Impact Experiences specifically, the proceeds of which go directly to a non-profit organisation.

"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 enjoy magical travel experiences through the eyes of locals. Airbnb travel is already delivering significant economic benefits for Africa, and today's investment will help kick-start new benefits for more people across Africa," says Chris Lehane, global head of public policy and public affairs for Airbnb.