When Africa appropriates the Airbnb phenomenon

It is a map of Africa speckled with small dots at the northern and southern ends, in the direction of the Gulf of Guinea and Kenya. When you enlarge the plan, dozens, then hundreds or even thousands of hosting offers appear. Airbnb, the community platform for the rental and booking of private homes, proposed in September 2017 approximately 100,000 homes for rent on the continent. This is certainly little compared to the 5 million representing the total offer, or 60,000 registered properties in Paris alone, the world's largest market. But four years ago there were hardly more than 6,000 homes on the African continent. The progression is therefore dazzling for Californian society.

South Africa, Morocco and Nigeria among the top 5 visitors

In 2017, it has transported 2 million visitors to Africa and it would now be present in every country. "But we're seeing incredible results in the countries we're investing in. For example, home sharing on Airbnb has boosted the South African economy by about $ 250 million in 2017, in terms of hospitality and customer spending," said Katie Bentley, Communications Manager. Airbnb Africa. Apart from South Africa, the flagship destination on the continent, Airbnb is a favorite in Morocco, Kenya, Tanzania (+ 50% visitors for these three countries between 2016 and 2017) or Nigeria (+ 325%). Countries where the offer of reception is not limited to the only accommodation.

An offer that diversifies

Intimate concerts, walking with the penguins or trips with a specialist in marine biology, for example, are offered in South Africa … In Morocco visitors can combine the rent of a room in a luxury riad – from 30 euro night – with a day trip to the Atlas mountains or cooking lessons. "We want to emphasize places and people that stand out in the hotels and the hospitality that characterizes the traditional hotel industry", continues Velma Corcoran, South Africa Manager at Airbnb.

This deduction of tourist practices – by members of the community – is accompanied by an investment of one million dollars in 2020. And if the formula tempts travelers, according to the tourism specialist from the University of North-West of South Africa Melville Saayman, it is because it "vanishes from the beaten track" while appealing to a heterogeneous audience, when "the big tour operators have a tendency to meet a high-end market".

Heterogeneous hosts

Maria, 68, understood well. This South African, who struggles with his meager pension, has rented his house (3 rooms) in Cape Town, South Africa for a year. Moreover, it offers meals to tourists. "I have about eight or ten lunches a day, although it's a little quieter at the moment, and customers really want to discover South African food," she says. "Cape Town is one of the cities in Africa where the Airbnb offer is most prevalent: the demand comes mainly from foreign tourists, but also from business people and South Africans from Johannesburg who want to spend a few days at the sea," Charles-adds. Henri Ropartz.

The 28-year-old French finance director in Paris has bought an apartment in the South African port city, which he leases on Airbnb through a local agency. "With Airbnb, the return on investment is better than a long-term lease, and it is possible to restore the good when you want," he notes.

Still little regulation

While the giant of the sharing economy, which is regularly accused of unfair competition, has to comply with new regulations in a number of European capitals – for example, Paris has a limited tourist rental period of up to 120 days – none of this is looming before the time in South Africa . In May, the Association of Federated Hostels appealed to the government to subject the rental platform to certain standards. In vain, for the moment. "We have seen very little movement in favor of regulation or special tax for Airbnb, and I think one of the main reasons is that the South African government supports small businesses and that it is difficult for them to restrict them through legislation, "says tourism expert Melville Saayman.

Shy start in Guinea

In 2017, the typical Airbnb host in Africa earned $ 1,500 for an average of 18 nights. But apart from the promising tourist locations in South Africa, Morocco or Nigeria, the market remains very heterogeneous on the continent and is necessarily dependent on political or security contexts. The offer is in fact limited to Juba in South Sudan – where one can rent a whole house from 13 euros per night – or to Mogadishu in Somalia – only two accommodations are offered. In Kinshasa, the largest French-speaking city in the world with more than 12 million inhabitants according to the UN, there are surprisingly only about forty houses.

This is less than in Conakry (2 million inhabitants), in Guinea, where the recent development of the hotel industry, with its visor for business tourism, seems to have left the average budget traveler on the floor. A gap that some Guinean owners are trying to turn into an opportunity. Among them Kadi and Salima. The former rents different rooms at around 20 euros a night in a concession that she wants to transform into the private primary school in the medium term.

The second, 35, a paid employee in overseas tourism, took the plunge in April 2017. She made the parental home a haven of peace in the heart of the Guinean capital, for 22 euros a night.

Increased competition

In this starting market, where sporadic demand is increasingly being faced, Salima is doing well by playing the professionalization card. "I love dealing with people from different countries, and because I am in tourism, there are so many things I want to offer to make their stay at home more enjoyable, I swarm with ideas and I feel alive! stable, if there is water and electricity, more and more people will consider this alternative in the long term, it is certainly cheaper than a hotel, but it will be especially necessary that the hosts are professional and that they offer impeccable service to the customers ", summarizes it. In addition, these amateur hosts can also help raise the bar for the quality of hotel services on the continent.

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