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Airbnb commits to contribute funds for sustainable tourism in Africa

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Airbnb commits to contribute funds for sustainable tourism in Africa

At the Africa Travel Summit in Johannesburg, Airbnb donated 500 000 USD to non-profit organizations. Their commitment aims to support initiatives focused on economic empowerment, digital inclusion and sustainable development in Africa.

Second Africa travel summit

The second Africa Travel Summit organized by Airbnb took place on October 23 and 24, 2023, in Johannesburg, South Africa. The event brought together over 200 decision-makers, tourism experts, innovators and changemakers from across the African continent, including :

  • Afua Osei, co-founder of She Leads Africa, served as the moderator during the panel discussion at the event.
  • Melvyn Lubega from Go1
  • Bheki Dube from Curiocity
  • Phakamile Hlazo from Zulu Nomad
  • Abongile Mashele from Google.

These dignitaries gathered to review, innovate, and collaborate towards developing an inclusive and sustainable tourism industry in Africa. Informal exchanges and sessions with changemakers enriched the panel discussions, addressing topics such as the future of African travel. Crucial themes, including the public-private partnership option to create inclusive economic opportunities and bridge the digital divide, were also discussed.

Collaboration between Airbnb and South Africa

At the opening of the event, South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, Patricia De Lille, encouraged public-private partnerships to impact tourism. This government representative emphasized the importance of promoting inclusive tourism, with technology being an essential ally in this regard.

It is important to note that Airbnb has also received support and an invitation for collaboration from the South African government. Tanya van Meelis, Acting Deputy Director-General of the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition of South Africa, shares similar views to Patricia de Lille regarding cooperation with Airbnb. In other words, Meelis approves the use of Airbnb as an accommodation option for official travels of officials from her department.

Airbnb’s commitment to sustainable tourism

The digital hosting platform Airbnb began in 2007, with three guests at two hosts’ homes in San Francisco. Since then, this American multinational has registered 4 million hosts and 1.5 billion arrivals worldwide. Every day, hosts offer authentic stays and experiences, fostering the connection of visitors with local communities.

During the Africa Travel Summit in Johannesburg, Airbnb allocated 500 000 USD to non-profit organizations. This commitment, spread over two years, will support governments and tourism organizations across Africa. The focus will be on identifying and harnessing new tourism opportunities as well as supporting hosts, visitors and their communities. This initiative aims to empower the next generation of tourism entrepreneurs and encourage investment in the tourism ecosystem, thereby fostering sustainable development.

This commitment to an inclusive, diverse, and sustainable tourism ecosystem in Africa stems from an economic impact report of October 2024. The document states that Airbnb contributed 23.5 billion ZAR, equivalent to 1.23 billion USD, to the South African economy in 2022. At that time, this contribution supported the creation of 50 000 jobs, doubling the company’s impact on inclusive tourism growth since 2019.

Authentic and sustainable travel experiences

Several sustainable and respectful options enable authentic travel experiences in Africa. For instance, responsible tourism is an excellent way to appreciate the authenticity of African cultures while contributing to their preservation. It is also a form of tourism committed to sustainable development. This type of tourism values local cultures and actively engages in sustainable development efforts.

For an immersive experience, stays in self-managed villages or community-based structures are becoming increasingly common in Sub-Saharan Africa. These structures are often affiliated with Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), particularly notable in West Africa and South Africa. For an environmentally respectful exploration, ecotourism is an ideal choice. Beyond the ecological aspect, this concept ensures a long-term future for tourism in Africa, based on partnerships beneficial to the community.

Airbnb Entrepreneurship Academy

Velma Corcoran, Airbnb’s Regional Manager for the Middle East and Africa, has announced the expansion of the Entrepreneurship Academy to five additional African countries. This institute is currently only available in South Africa and Kenya, this institute is exclusive to countries where the multinational operates.

This program promotes diversity and inclusion by expanding accommodation opportunities to a wider audience. Specifically, the program targets individuals from underrepresented communities in the hospitality industry, including those from various ethnic, social, cultural, or economic groups who face limited opportunities. It aims to reduce disparities by collaborating with local partners and communities to increase their presence and participation on the Airbnb platform.

Expansion of Airbnb’s City Portal Access

Airbnb’s commitment to sustainable tourism in Africa expands with the inclusion of 10 more countries in the City Portal. Launched in 2020, this dashboard provides data on economic activity and travel trends. Portal technology provides governments and tourism organizations with the following:

  • Information on data
  • Tourist tax revenue
  • Compliance tools
  • Centralized access to Airbnb’s neighborhood support hotline.

The digital tool allows cities to gain a better understanding of the impact of Airbnb on their communities. This expansion gives local stakeholders the resources to manage tourism on the platform. Additionally, Airbnb plans to release a White Paper on Inclusive Tourism Growth in 2024. This document will help African countries identify opportunities and policies to promote inclusive and sustainable tourism in Africa.

Impact of sustainable tourism on development in Africa

Sustainable tourism is the second largest sector in Africa, contributing an estimated 6.8% to the overall GDP. Africa’s abundant natural resources make it an enticing destination for tourists. In addition to its economic benefits, sustainable tourism emphasizes the importance of respecting and preserving wildlife and flora.

Furthermore, responsible and fair tourism initiatives promote local cultures. The growth of sustainable tourism in Africa is linked to the commitment of international institutions and private-sector players. For example, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) supports recovery plans and sustainable growth in Africa.

Nevertheless, the development of sustainable tourism in Africa faces numerous challenges, such as the need for infrastructure. Moreover, it is crucial to transform the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic into new opportunities for enhancing competitiveness. Therefore, sustainable tourism is both a developmental catalyst for Africa and a sector requiring tailored strategies to maximize its positive impact on the continent’s development.

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