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How does Airbnb support inclusive growth of tourism in South Africa

To overcome South Africa’s triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment the country needs inclusive growth. 

Airbnb commissioned Genesis Analytics measure the digital platform's impact on inclusive growth. The report explores Airbnb’s contribution to inclusive growth in four ways:

  • Contribution to economy-wide growth (growth part of inclusive growth);
  • Lowering the barriers to tourism entrepreneurship for typically excluded groups (supply-side inclusion);
  • Enabling more South Africans to travel within their own country (demand-side inclusion);
  • As supply- and demand-side inclusion come together how Airbnb disperses the benefits of tourism geographically.

Airbnb added R11 billion to the economy in 2019, and R8 billion in 2020 - a crisis year for tourism. Moreover the benefits of this growth are increasingly inclusive. Some selected interesting findings on inclusion:


  • 48% of hosts say they host "to make ends meet"
  • Gender inclusion is strong: There are now twice as many female hosts as male hosts
  • Racial inclusion is weak but improving: Only 4% of hosts identify as black African, only 13% classified as "non-white"
  • Hosting is growing rapidly in townships: there are now 160 hosts in Soweto, up 500% in four years
  • Youth inclusion is not strong, as most hosts are older than 30. However, Airbnb Experiences has great potential for young people
  • Digital exclusion remains a challenge.


The most impressive inclusion is on the demand side: more domestic travellers now use Airbnb in SA than international travellers (even before Covid)

  • From 2016 to 2019 domestic bookings on Airbnb grew by 600%
  • This allows many South Africans to travel in their own country for the first time
  • We found evidence that latent demand is being unlocked - 15% of domestic travellers said they would not have travelled without Airbnb

The fastest-growing bookings are in rural areas and in non-traditional tourism provinces.

The number one reason for using Airbnb is cost followed by location.

The research supports the view that Airbnb is creating inclusive growth. Inclusion is particularly strong in promoting domestic tourism, helping more South Africans to travel within their own country. 

There are also encouraging signs for the inclusion of young and female entrepreneurs as hosts on the platform. Proliferating inclusive growth through platforms like Airbnb will be vital in rebuilding South Africa’s economy post-pandemic. To do so, the public and private sectors should work together to ensure these promising foundations of inclusive growth are built on.

The contribution of Airbnb to inclusive growth in South Africa: Download the report

Infographic: The contribution of Airbnb to inclusive growth in South Africa

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