The new disruptor in Africa’s hospitality industry is growing fast
Africa has over the years witnessed an influx of investments. In the last six months, more than five Western firms have announced plans to start African operations; Airbnb is one of them.
The leading community-driven hospitality company, founded in 2008, provides users accommodation – whether a mansion for the month or an apartment for a night, at any price point, in more than 35,000 cities and 192 countries. It promotes a business which encourages people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions. Eventhough Airbnb was rejected by seven investors who could have had 10 percent of the company for $150,000 in 2008, it has now become a major source of inspiration to other entrepreneurs. The home-rental service is currently valued at a whopping $25.5 billion.
Its number of listings in Africa has increased by 145 percent and the number of Africans using Airbnb to travel has increased by 139 percent in the last one year. Already in 17 countries on the continent, Airbnb’s impact and expansion, particularly on the African continent represents a huge opportunity for the company. It has further shown its commitment to Africa by announcing the appointment of Nicola D’Elia as General Manager for Middle East & Africa. Nicola was previously at the helm of Facebook’s growth and partnerships in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
Although Africa has a quite a number of luxury hotels, not so many mid-range hotels are made available to international travellers. Chip Conley, Airbnb head of global hospitality and strategy explained some of the characteristics peculiar to the way Airbnb caters for its customers. “[…]people want to live like a local, people want maximum choice with limited complexity, some people want minimal services, and you can customise the experience by what you know about the customer.”
At the recently concluded GES 2015, Airbnb CEO, Brian Chesky, who met with several African entrepreneurs said he intends to grow the Airbnb community throughout the continent. He expressed excitement at “how Airbnb will empower people across the continent to make extra income while providing travelers with a truly authentic experience.” The Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE), Chesky’s signature initiative has continued to support the growth of entrepreneurship in Africa.
In Kenya, one of the 17 countries to have adapted its services, there are currently over 1,400 listings available to book through Airbnb with the greatest concentration in Nairobi (788). Kenyans are also embracing Airbnb as a way of travelling, with the number of Kenyan guests using Airbnb tripling in the last 12 months.
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