Flying Visits: Tourist dollars get new homes

04 November 2015 - 02:07 By John Harvey

Residents in Cape Town's less affluent areas are increasingly taking advantage of international home-stay website Airbnb. While Atlantic Seaboard, City Bowl and southern suburbs homeowners with rooms to rent are rarely without guests due to their favourable locations, Airbnb is also bringing tourists - local and foreign - to listed residents in Khayelitsha and Mitchell's Plain.In the past year, the number of people booking accommodation through Airbnb has grown by 257%, with the number of South Africans using the site increasing by 163% during the same period, according to a recent Mail & Guardian report.There are an estimated 9400 Airbnb listings in the country, and Cape Town makes up the majority of that number with more than 5000.Though addresses in Camps Bay, Gardens and Newlands are numerous, the presence of properties in townships and less "showy" precincts is noticeable.Fatima Rinquest, who rents rooms in her home in Essex Street, Lower Woodstock, has been overwhelmed by the bookings she has received since she joined Airbnb in April."I've had visitors from California, France, Germany and even Mexico. South Africans are also coming to us. While we are not in an affluent area, I think people love the fact that our community is so colourful," she said."As more parts of Woodstock are improved [as part of a gentrification process] I will get even more bookings. People think our area is unsafe, but nothing could be further from the truth."Rinquest said visitors loved the fact that her prices were lower than those in the "tourist" areas. "People come to Cape Town to enjoy themselves, so if they are able to stay comfortably without having to pay higher prices, it gives them more money to spend on things they want to do."Ayesha Ebrahim listed her Taj Lodge guesthouse in Hatton Estate, Rylands, seven months ago, and has received bookings from South Africa and the UK."Bookings have been going well, to the extent that we can't accommodate everyone," she said."We are in a predominantly Muslim area, and are exclusively halaal, which is why quite a few of our guests come from the Muslim community."Cape Town's townships are also beginning to cash in on the Airbnb phenomenon."Unfortunately I've just had a cancellation from Italy, but I expect that I will see more people from overseas finding me through Airbnb the closer we get to season," said Lydia Masoleng, owner of Malebo's Township B&B in Khayelitsha.Masoleng joined the platform a few months ago. "The tourists we get - mostly Germans and Americans - enjoy the township experience, so I'm sure more of them will come to us through Airbnb," she said.The success of Airbnb is similar to the story of taxi app Uber, which since launching in South Africa in 2013 has amassed in excess of 3million rides.Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille has advised Cape Town's tourism industry not to "rest on its laurels" in terms of drawing visitors to the city. Online service providers like Airbnb and Uber appear to be playing their part.Their international status means visitors around the globe are comfortable with using them to book accommodation and transport locally.

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day or Financial Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00.