Airbnb has given Cape Town tourism a welcome boost – not in a place used to this kind of aid, but in a place that really needs it.
Using the ‘iKhaya le Langa’ initiative as a springboard, the global accommodation company has helped nine local Langa women achieve the goal of becoming fully-fledged Airbnb hosts, complete with a basic education in business development.
Hosted at the organisation’s headquarters in Langa, a graduation ceremony celebrated the women’s achievement, bringing people from the media, government and the community together to see the good work that’s been done.
Locals and members of the media hover around iKhaya le Langa's headquarters, eagerly awaiting the graduation ceremony. Credit: Mikail Baker
The nine women are the first batch of what the organisation hopes will be 50 Airbnb hosts by the end of this year, ready to take advantage of their community’s rich history and prime location.
While several of these women have used their homes as tourist accommodation before, Airbnb hosting offers the prospect of regular, safe and easy business.
“Pair the entrepreneurial women of Langa, with a brand like Airbnb and watch the sparks fly,” iKhaya le Langa founder Tony Elvin told guests. “I am proud today to celebrate their graduation from IKhaya le Langa’s business development program onto Airbnb. To the community members present here today, be proud of these women. They are world class.”
He believes that Langa’s greatest asset is its people, who have endured so much, but who are, as he says, “the friendliest, most hospitable people you will meet anywhere”.
Guests at the event were also treated to a very special surprise, with Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky taking to the stage to voice his excitement for the partnership.
Tony Elvin introducing Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky to the guests. Credit: Mikail Baker
“We wanted to come to a community that was on the forefront of what’s happening,” he said. “I don’t know if Langa has historically viewed itself on the forefront, but I think that what you and Tony are doing is absolutely way ahead of the curve.”
His company has also donated several computers to Langa’s community centre so that hosts will have an easier time running their new businesses.
Elvin even has his own Airbnb ‘Trip’ now, called True Townships. The tour will allow visitors to experience the history of Langa, as well as the rich culture it has to offer today. All profits from the tours go directly into the iKhaya le Langa organisation.
iKhaya le Langa
iKhaya le Langa is a non-profit organisation that is helping to achieve the vision of a more enterprising and tourist-friendly Langa. As Elvin says, Langa is just seconds off the N2 highway, and 10 minutes from both the city center and the airport. In other words, it could quite easily be the next big thing in Cape Town tourism.
The area has retained its sense of community, with neighbours greeting one another from their stoeps and with kids playing on every corner – things that can’t be said for many areas in Cape Town.
A bit of street art in the Langa Quarter. Credit: Mikail Baker
The project has already produced a ‘prototype’ called the Langa Quarter, a thirteen-street area that will be the catalyst for a Langa free from the socio-economic legacy of apartheid.
“Langa is the oldest formal black part of the whitest city on the African continent,” says Elvin. “I say that not to be provocative, but to highlight a massive opportunity as this city works to address past historical injustices.”
Tourism is one of the means iKhaya le Langa uses to empower the community, and you don’t get many in the tourism industry who know better than Airbnb.