Rwanda, Kenya attract Airbnb bookings as Dar goes for taxes

Tuesday December 04 2018

Airbnb website. Airbnb guests are coming to Africa to explore unique, amazing homes across the continent. PHOTO FILE | NATION

By Allan Olingo

Rwanda posted a 73 per cent growth in Airbnb bookings — the highest in East Africa — in the first seven months of this year.

In the region, Kenya is the only other country that featured in the US short-term rental service’s latest report, registering a 68 per cent growth.

In Africa, Nigeria had the highest growth at 213 per cent as at July 2018, followed by Ghana at 141 per cent, and Mozambique at 136 per cent.

“We are now looking at Africa, especially South Africa, as our flagship market for how Airbnb Inc is thinking about more inclusive and sustainable tourism.

“We know that if we want to grow as a business over the next 10 or 20 years, that is going to be absolutely key,” said Airbnb South Africa manager, Velma Corcoran.

South Africa’s Airbnb bookings grew by 65 per cent, according to the report.


In terms of favourite listings, Kenya’s Rosslyn Gardens, which costs $54 a night, used as the home and garden of The Constant Gardener 2005 drama thriller film starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz who won an Oscar for her role, sits at the top five homes on Airbnb across Africa, in the list dominated by Nigeria, Morocco, Namibia and South Africa.

Kenya’s coffee farm tour is also top on the list for the most booked experiences for guests on the continent.

“In addition to staying in homes on Airbnb, guests to Africa can also book an Airbnb experience, participating in magical, handcrafted activities powered by local people. The Experiences platform is now open to hosts all across South Africa, Kenya and Morocco. Globally, Experience bookings are up over 1100 per cent in the past year,” Airbnb said in its latest update.


More than 3.5 million guests have arrived at listings on Airbnb across Africa to date, with roughly half of these arrivals occurring in just the past year.

Of the top eight fastest-growing countries in the world for Airbnb guest arrivals, three are located in Africa: Nigeria, Ghana, and Mozambique.

There are over 130,000 Airbnb listings across Africa, with South Africa constituting the bulk of the business, followed by Morocco, Kenya and Egypt.

“The rest of the continent is catching up with really encouraging growth numbers,” said Ms Corcoran.

According to an internal Airbnb survey of guests who travelled to South Africa in 2017, 82 per cent say they are more likely to return due to Airbnb.

The survey data also demonstrates that guests are choosing Airbnb when they visit South Africa because they’re seeking a different travel experience, one where they can live like a local and explore specific, local neighbourhoods.

Airbnb guests to South Africa also specifically view Airbnb as a more environmentally friendly, authentic way to travel, with greater benefit to the local economies where they are travelling.

Unique experience

Airbnb guests are coming to Africa to explore unique, amazing homes across the continent.

In South Africa, 65 percent of Airbnb home hosts are women — one of the highest percentages for any country in the world.

Since its founding in 2008, Airbnb hosts across Africa have earned more than $400 million in direct income from renting out their properties via the service, the company says.

Tourism is one of the continents fastest-growing sectors and contributed nearly $178 billion to Africa’s gross domestic product last year, according to the latest figures from the World Travel and Tourism Council.

As a result of the entry of this new form of tourism hosting, African governments now want a slice of Airbnb’s cake.

Two months ago, Tanzania asked all the Airbnb operators to register their facilities with the government before the end of the year or face legal action.

“There are many individuals who are operating these facilities and we want them to be recognised officially by the government. We are keen to recognise the Airbnb services in the country and have them pay the requisite fees as we seek to regulate this new tourism facility,” Rosada Musoma, assistant director of licensing and control in the Ministry of Tourism said.

Siriri Akko, executive secretary of the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators, supported the government’s move saying the decision would create fairness in business and protect tourists from any problems.

“Even if these Airbnb operators receive a low number of tourists, they should pay taxes and licence fees like others because their business is growing fast as tourists now want to experience life outside hotels,” Mr Akko said.

Ms Corcoran said that Airbnb was open to working with African governments to ensure that they also get a slice of the home-sharing market pie.

“We are working towards having the African governments embrace home sharing as a new player in tourism; then we can work with them to put in place certain tools, like collecting and remitting tourism tax,” Ms Corcoran said.

Tanzania's short-stay accommodation operators have to register their facilities with the government in the next 50 days or face arrest, in a move affecting those signed up with the short-term rental service.