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Airbnb SA commits to empower hard-hit tourism entrepreneurs

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Hospitality booking siteAirbnb SA has announced a three-year commitment to address barriers to becoming a tourism entrepreneur in SA, and help re-build a more inclusive and resilient domestic tourism economy.

According to a statement, the commitment − focused on infrastructure, training and investment − builds on Airbnb’s 2017 $1 million investment in Africa to boost community-led tourism projects, and the Africa Academy, which has trained more than 300 hosts on the continent.

SA’s tourism industry has been the hardest hit 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.

The three new commitments, according to the company, will promote inclusion in the tourism sector by supporting existing tourism entrepreneurs and enabling a new generation of South Africans to benefit from the tourism economy, as travel returns following the pandemic.

The commitments are:

Infrastructure: Commitment to tourism entrepreneurship through an internet partnership deal with wireless infrastructure provider Ikeja.

Training: Signing a partnership deal with the University of Johannesburg focused on the Airbnb Entrepreneurship Academy.

Investment: Pledging an additional R1.5 million towards the Airbnb Academy fund for tourism entrepreneurs in SA’s townships and rural areas,who have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 devastation.

This commitment follows an independent report commissioned by Airbnb to better understand the platform’s contribution to inclusive tourism growth in South Africa, and how the platform can work to further reduce barriers to entry going forward.

It highlighted digital access as a significant barrier for would-be tourism entrepreneurs, and concluded that people in townships and rural communities were likely to be most affected by the lack of international tourism, it notes.

“Travel has fundamentally changed as a result of the pandemic. Together with government and stakeholders, we need to re-balance travel to be truly sustainable, domestic, diverse and inclusive, and re-imagine it for what it can be – a travel economy for all,” says Chris Lehane, senior VP of global policy and communications at Airbnb.

“We are super-charging the Africa Academy by investing in infrastructure that will allow people to connect to our global network, creating our first-ever entrepreneurial education programme and re-investing in the next generation of tourism entrepreneurs.”

Airbnb says over the next two years,it will work together with Ikeja to provide at least 100 Airbnb Academy hosts and their communities with free WiFi. Each of these hosts will become a WiFi hotspot within their community, providing hundreds of community members with internet access.

Its partnership with the University of Johannesburg’s School of Tourism and Hospitality (STH) seeks to expand the Airbnb Academy programme to at least 1000 students over the next three years.

Professor Diane Abrahams, director of the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management at the University of Johannesburg, says: “We are excited to be collaborating with Airbnb to expand the Airbnb Academy, as this presents wonderful opportunities for our students in the entrepreneurial space and broadens their exposure to tourism and hospitality.

“At STH, we value our partnerships with industry and look forward to working together with Airbnb to educate our future entrepreneurs.”

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