In 2020, a ‘crisis year’ for tourism in South Africa, travel on Airbnb contributed more than R8 billion to the economy, supporting around 21,500 jobs according to a new report from independent consultancy Genesis Analytics, commissioned by Airbnb.
The report highlights how the Airbnb platform contributes to the growth of the tourist economy and that this growth is increasingly inclusive in nature.
“The Airbnb platform is lowering barriers to entry and welcoming new Hosts onto the platform by empowering groups typically excluded from the benefits of tourism, like those living in rural and township communities.”
The report also shows how the Covid pandemic and resulting lockdowns impacted the tourism industry in South Africa in 2020, with Airbnb’s contribution to economy-wide employment climbing 28% in 2019, to 28,599, before slipping back to around 21,500 last year.
It also illustrates that Airbnb is an increasingly popular and more accessible choice for domestic travellers. Domestic travel on the platform grew almost six-fold from 2016 to 2019, while South African Tourism estimates that domestic tourism fell by 9% over the same period when looking at the industry as a whole.
The fastest growth was seen outside the typical tourist destinations in the North West, where guest travel grew by 130% annually between 2016 and 2019.
Top 15 destinations for guest travel between 2016 and 2019
The fastest-growing cities and towns on Airbnb 2018 to 2019 and guest origin share in 2019
According to Genesis Analytics’ analysis of Airbnb data, evidence from the townships of Soweto and Tembisa shows that before 2019 there were more visits from international tourists than domestic tourists.
However, by 2019 the pattern had reversed as townships became a popular domestic tourism destination. These areas are also seeing positive growth in the number of hosts on Airbnb, with figures in Soweto more than doubling from 2016 to 2019, albeit off a low base.
Bednights by province: 2017 to 2019
Across South Africa, additional Airbnb research has revealed new hosts on Airbnb who welcomed their first guests in the first six months of 2021 and have only one listing have collectively made over R1.8 billion hosting on Airbnb.
Half of the new listings that were both activated and booked in early 2021 got a reservation request within seven days, with the average annual earnings per host who had welcomed at least one guest was R55,800.
Velma Corcoran, Regional Lead Middle East Africa at Airbnb, said: “We are at an early and pivotal stage in South Africa’s recovery following the pandemic, where intentional effort and collaboration is needed from all parties to further support a diverse, sustainable and inclusive tourism economy.
“It’s why, as part of Airbnb’s vision for tourism, we set out our support for clear and sensible rules in South Africa, and for the introduction of a nationwide registration system, giving the government data to enforce proportionate regulation, offering transparency to communities, and empowering local tourism entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.”