Many owners around the world are using Airbnb to rent out rooms, or homes, to make extra money. Graphic: Cape Times
Cape Town - The hospitality industry has called for stricter regulations on Airbnb, saying property owners were not adhering to the sort of rules to which others were being subjected.

Airbnb, an online booking platform which allows homeowners to rent out space in their homes, has grown popular as travellers seek alternatives to hotel accommodation.

Economic Opportunities MEC Alan Winde said Airbnb had grown from 10 000 to 15 000 properties in Cape Town recently as property owners seek to make extra income

“One in four Airbnb properties in Africa is in Cape Town and, according to a recent report, Cape Town was its largest market in Africa. Between September and October 2016, 147 622 international arrivals were recorded at Cape Town International Airport, up from 119 451 passengers last year, an increase of 22% year-on-year. We are set for a bumper peak period.”

Winde said while international arrivals had been on the increase, the numbers of holidaymakers in Cape Town and the Western Cape in general were also boosted by domestic tourists. This trend, he said, would continue over the next few months.

Federated Hospitality Association of SA chief executive Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said while politicians see only how this helps increase revenue for the tourism industry, the federation had a responsibility to its members.

“While we applaud the platform, and how it’s helped businesses who never had access to other online booking platforms, we have reservations. Private owners are renting out rooms and not following the same regulations as other entities within the industry. Airbnb say they only provide a platform, but they receive remuneration and therefore must ensure their partners are properly vetted,” said Tshivhengwa.

He said Fedhasa had a constituency that must follow laws and regulations for the industry and it cannot be that others are exempted while providing a similar service.

“There has to be clear compliance and this is why we are lobbying with all spheres of government to set forth clear regulations for Airbnb. The state of New York has done so, which it (Airbnb) is complaining about, but this is necessary in an industry where anything can happen and responsibility has to be taken,” said Tshivhengwa.

He said while politicians see only how this helps increase revenue for tourism, the federation’s responsibility goes beyond that and demands clear guidelines followed by all.

In Cape Town, the most affordable property on the platform is the Sleepy Backpackers in Gordons Bay at R189 per night for a shared room, and R220 per night for a room at a home in Khayelitsha to be shared with a family. In Clifton, a private room is R245 a night.

Some of the more expensive listings include a house in Fresnaye for R16 226 a night, a Sea Point home for R10 000 and a house on a two-acre plot in Upper Constantia for R15 000 a night.

Local property owner, Rocco Smit began using the site this festive season, but said while it’s brilliant, property owners need to do their homework.

“The site does not allow the sharing of personal information, which is a problem when you need get in contact with a client urgently. The site enables anyone to earn something, and Airbnb their percentage, as hotels are ludicrously expensive,” said Smit.

He said while there is a foreign interest in his property, he has experienced mainly local interest thus far.

Andrew Lindsay owns a flatlet in Johannesburg he has been letting through the site for almost year. “While I have predominantly received good reviews, I have had a few negative ones. I have used other platforms and interest went up since I started using the site.”

Cape Times