Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom File photo: Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town – Airbnb said it was delighted to have had the chance to engage with the National Department of Tourism about the proposed amendments to the Tourism Act, and was encouraged to see the recognition of the benefits that hosting brings to the local community and economy.

Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom met with Airbnb SA country manager Velma Corcoran and other representatives of the online accommodation platform last week, in the context of the current call for public comment on the Tourism Amendment Bill, published on April 15. 

The bill aims to address, among other issues, the regulatory vacuum on short-term rentals by defining short-term home rentals as “the renting or leasing on a temporary basis, for reward, of a dwelling or a part thereof, to a visitor”.

“For South Africa to reach its ambitious tourism goals that are key to economic development and job creation for all citizens, it’s vital that guests to the country have a wide selection of accommodation and experience options - including home sharing, which allows guests to stay in different areas, as well as with local hosts who are ambassadors to their country,” Corcoran said.

She added that Airbnb hosts had added a significant amount to the economy, generating R8.7billion between June 2017 and May last year.

“To continue this trend and to not disadvantage any citizen of South Africa, Airbnb supports fair and proportional rules that are evidence-based, benefit local people, and distinguish between professional and non- professional activity taking into account local conditions.

“For example, rules based on the level of activity as opposed to the platform where the accommodation is listed, with a clear distinction between traditional hospitality providers and occasional home sharers.”

Hanekom said he welcomed the spirit of the discussion and co-operation from Airbnb, and further appreciated their commitment to contribute constructively to the legislative review processes, in support of the country’s tourism development growth objectives.

“We welcome Airbnb and other game-changing innovations that are opening up new markets for destinations, offering travellers affordable holidays, and allowing smaller industry players to thrive. Many of these are able to flourish through the ease of use of shared-economy platforms,” said Hanekom.

Director-general for the department Victor Tharage said: “The Amendment Draft Bill in its current form proposes that the minister be empowered to determine such thresholds.

“We urge our stakeholders to submit their comments, to enable us to strengthen the bill in order to serve the interest of inclusive tourism growth in South Africa.”

Cape Times