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Hosts on Airbnb receive R1m COVID-19 financial aid

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Airbnb has distributed R1 million in financial relief to its hosts, as it awaits government’s guidance on the safe re-opening of operations on the home-sharing platform.

According to Airbnb, the funds have been allocated to Airbnb Africa Academy hosts, many of whom are from under-resourced areas around the country and have come to rely on Airbnb as a source of income to support their families.

“Developed as part of Airbnb’s $1 million commitment to inclusive tourism in Africa, the Airbnb Africa Academy has provided training for 220 people ‒ with 70% of participants being women. Recipients of the fund are hosts who previously received training through the academy, enabling them to become micro-entrepreneurs using the Airbnb platform,” says Airbnb.

In a statement released last month, Airbnb raised questions as to why it was excluded from president Cyril Ramaphosa’s plans to incrementally open travel during advanced level three lockdown.

This after the local tourism sector was given a lifeline with government unbanning essential international and domestic travel under strict conditions – with the exception of Airbnb.

“The decision to exclude local hosts on Airbnb will have far-reaching consequences that will hurt many across SA, including a disproportionate impact on many families and small businesses, who rely most on the additional income they earn from hosting,” explained Velma Corcoran, country manager for Sub-Saharan Africa at Airbnb, at the time.

“Half of hosts across the world say they rely on this additional income to afford their homes, for example, and two-thirds of hosts in SA are women.”

Airbnb says it has made a significant contribution to SA’s economy and urged the presidency to reconsider its approach and allow South African hosts to open their homes to help rebuild their livelihoods and the economy.

The R1 million fund forms part of Airbnb’s “get behind the mask” campaign, which saw the company committing R350 000 towards the production and distribution of masks to ensure the safety of all South Africans.

One recipient of the financial aid is Nombulelo Msizi, who runs a bed-and-breakfast in Langa, Cape Town, according to Airbnb.

At 70 years old, she was still able to earn an income through her own business using Airbnb and support her nine- and 12-year-old granddaughters who live with her. She says it has been extremely difficult not being able to earn an income since the lockdown began.

With the funds she has received from Airbnb, Msizi says she plans to maintain her home and carry out repairs to ensure the future of her business. She will also purchase personal protective equipment and the necessary supplies to clean and disinfect rooms for future guests.

Her career switched from cleaning hospitals to hospitality and she has worked in various roles in many well-known Cape Town hotels.

Msizi has been using her sewing skills to make masks, which she sells to earn an income while she can't host guests. She sells these at a reduced price or gives them to people free of charge to protect them and ensure less COVID-19 spread in her community.

“I’m looking at doing all those things and at the same time assisting those who are struggling more than I do,” notes Msizi.

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