Airbnb is making the shift from novelty accommodation to a mainstream tourist option across Africa.
Since launching on the continent, the travel startup has notched up over 130,000 listings which have seen over 3.5 million guest arrivals. However, around half of those guests arrived in the past year alone. Airbnb’s growth on the continent is highlighted by one stat: Nigeria, Ghana and Mozambique are all among Airbnb’s eight fastest growing markets globally. The startup’s growing popularity is also reflected across the continent with seven countries all recording over 100% increase in guest arrivals over the past year.
While it has undoubtedly been used by foreign tourists visiting and discovering the continent, Airbnb has also proven important for Africans traveling within the continent. By expanding the pool of accommodation choices beyond luxury hotels and resorts, affordable lodging is one less worry for African travelers who typically face significant challenges traveling across the continent given complex visa processes and expensive flights.
Airbnb’s disruption of tourism also translates into real economic power for its hosts: African Airbnb hosts have earned over $400 million (pdf) in income as hosts in South Africa and Morocco—two of the most popular destinations—average over $1,000 annually.
Airbnb’s broad range of listings is also resulting in a diffusion of interest beyond popular high-profile tourist destinations like Cape Town with travelers discovering livable gems including an art gallery in Kigali, a renovated bus in Nairobi and a penthouse studio in the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
It has not been all rosy however. Airbnb, which has typically thrived in the grey area of not being subject to as much government scrutiny as hotels, has faced regulation and licensing worries in Namibia as well as in Tanzania.