Popular accommodation platform Airbnb has responded to allegations that it is flouting tourism industry regulations, saying it is helping “regular South Africans” to boost their incomes.
Last week, the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa’s CEO, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, plead with the Department of Tourism and other stakeholders to reel Airbnb in in terms of state regulations.
The CEO is adamant that providing short-term accommodation for gain does not “share” profits across the economy.
Now, Airbnb’s Regional Market Consultant for Southern Africa Velma Corcoran has hit back, saying all such allegations are “baseless allegations filed by lobby groups who want to avoid competition and protect their bottom line”.
This is a serious allegation in itself, but one that Airbnb has felt compelled to make under pressure from organisations such as FEDHASA.
“Airbnb is not an accommodation provider,” she says. “We provide a platform that hosts can use to advertise their property and connect with guests.”
“We ask hosts to confirm that they comply with the laws that apply to them before they list their property on the platform.”
Many South Africans are directly benefitting from the Airbnb’s large presence in the country, but SA tourism regulations seem to be too outdated to manage this type of service offered outside the formal tourism sector.
Earlier this month, Airbnb published a report claiming it has pumped more than R2,4-billion into South Africa through more than 400 000 hostings – all within the space of a year.
On average, the company says, South Africa Airbnb hosts earn an additional R28 000 per year, from just 16 days of hosting.
FEDHASA’s argument seems to be a case of FOMO. With most Airbnb hosts existing as unregistered establishments, they are not subject to taxation.
Airbnb has also committed itself to social upliftment in the country, with CEO Brian Chesky himself showing face at a recent community project in Langa, Cape Town.
Working with a local organisation, iKhaya le Langa, Airbnb is aiming to train 50 Airbnb hosts in the community by the end of the year.
Langa is the oldest township in Cape Town and was established before apartheid. Not long ago, it was considered a "marker avoidance zone." Tourists would take buses to drive through and gawk at the people. Some called it poverty porn. Today things are changing. Tony, a social impact entrepreneur, worked with the township to help invigorate their local economy. We discovered Tony's efforts and partnered with him. He is now an experience host for Airbnb, and takes you through a 3 day immersion here. He also set up an Airbnb hosting 3 month class for 10 women to become Airbnb home hosts. On their graduation day, I was able to make a surprise visit. They gave me hugs with tears in their eyes. If you want to visit Cape Town, I recommend not just driving past Langa, but living here with the community. #airbnbtour2017 #ahoststory