Airbnb SA provides jobs, aids economic growth

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 20 Oct 2023
Domestic travel on Airbnb grew by more than a third from 2019 to 2022.
Domestic travel on Airbnb grew by more than a third from 2019 to 2022.

Online accommodation booking platform Airbnb supported almost 50 000 jobs and contributed more than R23.5 billion to the South African gross domestic product in 2022.

This is according to the new Airbnb Economic Impact report conducted by independent consultancy Genesis Analytics − commissioned by Airbnb – released yesterday.

According to Genesis Analytics, the Airbnb platform helped drive economic growth across SA in new and existing destinations − a 115% increase from the economic contribution during pre-COVID-19 times.

It found the typical South African host earned around R32 500 in 2022, amounting to just over R4 billion in total host earnings − a 25% increase from pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Half of the hosts across SA said the money they earn from hosting helps cover the rising cost of living, and over a third said the additional income helps them make ends meet.

Velma Corcoran, regional lead for Middle East and Africa at Airbnb, notes: “We believe there is immense potential for inclusive growth in South African tourism, and are committed to making travel and hosting more accessible, safe, diverse and affordable for everyone.

“We are proud to have more than doubled our economic impact, meaning more South Africans in more places are benefiting from increasingly local and inclusive tourism. We look forward to continuing to work together with government and the wider tourism industry to create more economic opportunities for locals, and showcase the best of South Africa to domestic and international guests.”

The report comes ahead of the Airbnb Africa Travel Summit on 24 October, where more than 200 policymakers, tourism experts, innovators and change-makers from across the continent will gather to explore and collaborate on building an inclusive, sustainable tourism industry across Africa.

The Genesis Analytics report also highlights that domestic travel on the platform grew by over a third from 2019 to 2022, and the fastest growth was seen in non-traditional tourist hotspots, with seven out of 10 trending destinations on the platform located outside of traditional tourist hotspots.

SA’s tourism industry was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the overall number of travellers (arrivals and departures) decreasing by 71% between 2019 and 2020, according to the Tourism 2020 report released by Statistics South Africa in April 2021.

Despite 2020 being a ‘crisis year’ for SA’s tourism industry, travel on Airbnb contributed more than R8 billion to the economy and supported around 22 000 jobs in the year, it says.

Domestic tourism is on the rise in SA, exceeding pre-pandemic levels − with a 70% increase in local and international visits since 2022, according to the Department of Tourism.

An Airbnb survey, conducted last year, found the typical South African host earns just over R26 000 − equivalent to approximately one month’s additional pay for the average income earner − by renting their space on Airbnb.

South African cities with the fastest-growing stays on Airbnb are Mafube (Free State), Impendle (KwaZulu-Natal), Nala (North West), AbaQulusi (KwaZulu-Natal), Witzenberg (Western Cape) and Chief Albert Luthuli (Mpumalanga).

Airbnb was established in 2007 in San Francisco, and has since grown to over four million hosts, who have hosted more than one billion guests across 220 countries.

In its first quarter 2023 results, nights and experiences booked on the platform hit a record high, with over 120 million bookings.

Revenue growth reached $1.8 billion, growing 20% year-over-year. Net income for the quarter was $117 million, says the company.