Airbnb debuts online neighbourhood support tool in SA

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Ahead of the much-anticipated summer travel season, Airbnb has introduced its neighbourhood support line in South Africa.

The online-based support tool is already live in 29 countries and territories globally, including France, Spain, Italy, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic and the Netherlands.

In a statement, the hospitality booking site says the neighbourhood support line builds on its existing neighbourhood tool, which allows neighbours to submit complaints about a listing via an online form.

Airbnb stresses that the overwhelming majority of stays take place with no issues − and emergencies and safety incidents should be reported to local authorities.

The aim of the neighbourhood support line, it states, is to address immediate disturbances, such as an unauthorised party in progress, as well as possible long-term or recurring issues within the community.

Neighbours can visit the support line to request a call from a specialised support agent, who will aim to give them a call back within 10 minutes. Airbnb investigates reports received through these channels.

Velma Corcoran, regional lead for Middle East Africa at Airbnb, says: “The vast majority of hosts and guests on Airbnb are good neighbours and respectful travellers who follow the rules.

“As travel returns to South Africa and we prepare for a busy summer, we want to take swift and robust action against anyone who doesn’t live up to the standards that communities expect. The neighbourhood support line will help us to crack down on the type of behaviour that isn’t welcome on Airbnb.”

South Africa’s tourism industry has been heavily impacted 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.

As a result, Airbnb has introduced measures to help re-build the once-thriving economy.

In September, it announced a three-year commitment to address the barriers to becoming a tourism entrepreneur.

Earlier this year, the company wrote to policy-makers to set out its support for a short-term rental registration system in SA, to boost tourism in the wake of the pandemic, protect local tourism entrepreneurs, and promote an inclusive and sustainable future for tourism.

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