With comparatively cheap, hassle-free services,Â Airbnb has revolutionised the tourist and home-sharing industry worldwide. But not all are convinced that Airbnb represents a step forward for us – especially those of us without property to rent out in the first place. The Daily Vox breaks down the basics of Airbnb and the controversy attached to the Uber of the tourism industry.
What is Airbnb?
Airbnb is an online marketplace that seeks to connect members looking to rent out their homes with people who want to rent them. Airbnb members offering renting services are referred to as â€œHostsâ€ and those looking to rent are called â€œGuestsâ€.
How does it work?
Almost anyone with a space to rent can sign up as a Host. A Host simply puts up the the details and dates of the space theyâ€
How popular is Airbnb in South Africa?
In 2016, South Africans rented their homes to 400 000 guests, about 150 000 of whom were other South Africans. According to the Western Cape MEC of tourism Alan Winde, Cape Town is Africaâ€
Are there any guidelines or screening processes for Hosts?
Airbnb asks that Hosts provide complete and accurate information about their â€œHost Serviceâ€ (such as listing description, location, and calendar availability) and that Hosts make known any house rules and further requirements that Guests would need to know. But as stated in Airbnbâ€
The incentive for Hosts to keep up to standards is that they are rated by Guests on their services, and this is seen to affect their future transactions.
Is Airbnb good or bad for our economy?
According to Airbnbâ€
What about the controversies raised lately?
Many claim that the existence of Airbnb allows homeowners to temporarily rent out their spaces to wealthy tourists who can afford high rents for short stays. This is argued to increase housing prices in the area, thus contributing to gentrification – the gradual economic exclusion of poorer individuals from communities they can no longer afford due to rising property prices. Cape Town is struggling with issues of gentrification, with those living closer to the CBD being driven towards the outskirts of the region. Communities moved to cheaper regions often live inÂ housing that is less safe, poorly serviced, and environmentally hazardous (due to flooding and shack fires), and can end up spending up to a third of their income on travel costs.
The Reclaim the City movement, pushing for affordable housing to correct the legacies of spatial apartheid, have spoken out against the effects of Airbnb on the property market.
On top of issues around affordable housing, the safety of Guests and the responsibility of Airbnb was highlighted after a number of people came to harm through renting Airbnbs.
In 2015 a man staying at an Airbnb died after an accident resulting from using on a rope swing. The swing itself was advertised as part of the Host Services but because Airbnb do not directly inspect their Hosts to ensure their homes are safe, the swing’s safety was not accounted for. The victimâ€
South African filmmaker Sibahle â€˜Steveâ€
So should Airbnb be regulated?
There is international debate over this – stemming from both safety concerns and Airbnbâ€
In his March budget briefing, Winde stated that he was aware of the regulatory concerns around Airbnb. Citing the number of additional homes earning an income from Airbnb, Winde was clear that the Western Cape would not be in favour of greater regulation of such industries.
â€œIn our province, we will not tolerate businesses being slowed down by unnecessary regulations,â€ said Winde. â€œWe are eager to become a place of learning for disruptors, and are active in engaging these players to ensure they are able to thrive, while meeting good practice standards.â€
Yet those making an income from sharing their homes with – predominantly Western – tourists are not South Africaâ€