Airbnb Sub Saharan Africa country manager Velma Corcoran has voiced the company’s disappointment with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to reopen hotels and other accommodation while specifically stating that Airbnb will remain banned.
Last week, Ramaphosa said that restrictions in place under level 3 of the national lockdown would be lifted to allow the reopening of more industries.
The list of industries which will be allowed to return to operation included accredited and licensed accommodation, with the exception of home-sharing such as Airbnb.
In a statement issued on 24 June 2020, Corcoran said that Airbnb hosts will suffer greatly due to the President’s decision.
“President Ramaphosa’s statement last week that travel will reopen shortly would, therefore, have been welcome news to many hoteliers and travel businesses across South Africa,” Corcoran said.
“The many everyday South Africans who host on Airbnb however, who were singled out as being excluded from this announcement, have viewed the statement as a missed opportunity that leaves them confused and left behind.”
“For example, many might find the decision to reopen hotels and hostels – with their crowded public areas – ahead of private self-catering accommodation, hard to reconcile with public health considerations,” Corcoran said.
She highlighted that elsewhere in the world, other governments have said that Airbnb would be “at the front of the queue” when travel reopens.
Corcoran said the prioritisation of public health is also why Airbnb has launched an enhanced cleaning protocol – the first overarching standardised guidelines for cleaning and sanitisation in the home-sharing industry, developed in partnership with leading experts in hospitality and medical hygiene.
“Others too will also be disappointed to only hear reference to the reopening of ‘accredited and licensed accommodation’ when local hosts on Airbnb – who bring benefits to their communities and the economy – have sought clear and fair legal recognition but have been overlooked in favour of corporate hotel chains,” she said.
Excluding Airbnb will hurt South Africans
Corcoran said that Ramaphosa’s decision to exclude Airbnb from those industries which are reopening will cause the local families, businesses, and communities that rely on Airbnb to feel anxious about their futures.
More than 2 million guests have travelled to South Africa using Airbnb, and a study in 2018 by Genesis Analytics found that this generated an estimated R8.7 billion for the local economy – the equivalent of supporting more than 22,000 jobs.
“The decision to exclude local hosts on Airbnb will have far-reaching consequences that will hurt many across South Africa, including a disproportionate impact on many families and small businesses, who rely most on the additional income they earn from hosting,” Corcoran said.
“Half of hosts across the world say they rely on this additional income to afford their homes, for example, and two-thirds of hosts in South Africa are women.”
Airbnb said it has asked Ramaphosa to reconsider his specific exclusion of Airbnb from operation under the relaxed level 3 regulations.
“With hosts playing such a valuable role in both the global crisis and supporting economic recovery, we believe it is right to ask the Presidency to reconsider their approach and to allow South African hosts to open their homes to help rebuild their livelihoods, communities, and the economy, and we have already written to the president with this request,” Corcoran said.
“Airbnb’s approach is always to view policymakers as partners – not adversaries – and we are working with governments across the world to support the safe reopening of travel while prioritising public health.”
“We want to do the same in South Africa and help extend the economic and social benefits of travel to those who need it most,” she said.