Airbnb, the world’s most popular online booking platform has established itself as a solution to the limited accommodation provided by the traditional hotel and guest house industry.
Hadi Moussa, the company’s regional director for Middle East and Africa and head of EMEA Business Development, spoke to sister publication Jeune Afrique on his Africa strategy.
What are your most dynamic markets on the continent?
The continent as a whole is a very important market dynamic. Since Airbnb was founded in 2008, nearly 3.5 million travellers have booked their accommodation using the platform. South Africa is our largest market, not only in terms of the number of travellers but also in terms of the number of hosts. Morocco leads in French-speaking Africa, where the growth rates have been very encouraging. Moreover, the number of travellers have doubled each year in some countries such as the DRC, Cameroon, Guinea and Tunisia.
What is the profile of your clients in Africa?
As in the rest of the world, eight out of ten travellers book via the platform because they want to explore a destination by staying as closely as possible to the locals. International visitors form the majority of travellers in French-speaking Africa. They mainly come from France, Germany, Great Britain and the United States, countries where Airbnb already has a strong presence. However, there has been an increase in the number of travellers on the national and regional scale. This trend is even stronger when the market is mature. For example, 44% of South Africans who used Airbnb to travel actually used the platform to stay in their own country. In Kenya, the growth in domestic demand is greater than 200%!
How do you stand out when it comes to business travellers?
We ensure that the accommodation is equipped with all the basic necessities: access to wifi, workplace, flexible check-in …
Can the lack of hotel infrastructure be a growth factor for Airbnb?
The vast majority of our guests choose neighbourhoods where there are a few hotels and this makes Airbnb their preferred choice. That being said, Airbnb can help boost tourism in certain destinations where there is little conventional infrastructure, thus creating new economic opportunities. In Africa, registered hosts on the platform have earned over $400m from their home rentals.
Does Airbnb pose a threat to hotel chains?
On the contrary, we complement each other. According to our studies, at least 30% of Airbnb passengers have said they would not have stayed in the locations if they had not found the accommodation via the platform. And their main goal is to live in less touristy neighbourhoods through shared housing. Our mission is not to compete with hotel chains. We want to rethink travelling and meet the demands of all our guests. We’ve therefore started to include boutique hotels on our platform, by first ensuring that they offer an authentic local experience in line with our brand’s objectives. This offer has been launched worldwide, including in Africa.
The low amount of taxes paid by your platform is an often controversial topic. How do you work with different countries to regulate bookings on Airbnb?
We can help countries collect tourism taxes that we will in turn pay back to the authorities. We have not started doing this in Africa, but we are currently in discussion with Morocco to push this forward.
By Natacha Gorwitz