Airbnb aims to double African customers this year

United States tech company, Airbnb, hopes to maintain its rapid rate of growth in Africa this year and double its customer numbers to 1.5 million.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA (MARCH 17, 2017) (REUTERS) – Airbnb expects to maintain its rapid growth in Africa this year and double its customer numbers to 1.5 million, its Chief Executive Brian Chesky said on Friday (March 17).

The number of people using the online room rental service on the continent rose by 143 percent to about 765,000 guests in 2016 from the year before, according to the company.

Brian Chesky described Africa as “an incredibly exciting emerging market for travel”, was speaking to Reuters in Langa, Cape Town’s oldest township, where he put in an appearance to surprise graduates from an Airbnb training programme.

He explained that the company has 77,000 homes listed across Africa – out of its 3 million globally – but that it could easily have “hundreds of thousands” in a continent that’s home to over a billion people.

The total of 77,000 homes represents an increase of 95 percent from 2015 to 2016, the company said.

Nombulelo Msizi is the owner of a bed and breakfast hotel in Cape Town, South Africa. She wasn’t sure about Airbnb at first, but she soon changed her mind.

“With the Airbnb hosting, I wanted to know what is special with the Airbnb as compared to what we were doing. What I saw is special, is the support and the safety of it. Everything is just the hosting, hosting, nothing else,” said Msizi.

South Africa, which was an early adopter of Airbnb, is the top ranked country in Africa in terms of listings and visitors, which mainly come from the U.S, Germany, UK and Netherlands.

Speaking to Reuters, Brian Chesky said Africa is not just about safaris.

“You know Africa more generally, is a incredibly exciting, emerging market for travel, this is one of the things we’re thinking. And when we started Airbnb I don’t think a lot of people, you know, in the United States and other places, talked about going to Africa more often than just, maybe, like a more niche, exotic travel. I think now people are realising that actually you don’t just do safaris and drive past places but they can actually live in communities. It’s like here in Langa, it’s not about driving past Langa, it’s about living in the community amongst the people. And I think they’ve really cool cultures here,” said Chesky.

The top five cities are Cape Town, Marrakesh, Johannesburg, Nairobi and Casablanca, although listings are found in diverse locations from St Helena island in the south Atlantic ocean to Freetown in Sierra Leone, and even a smattering in Somalia.

The Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities, Alan Winde, met with Chesky on his visit and said that Airbnb will play a major role in bringing tourism to Cape Town, whilst creating jobs to enhance the economy.