Airbnb is finally unbanned in South Africa - and super-clean local listings will now be highlighted

Business Insider SA
Photo: Caroline Lupini
  • Two months after hotels and guest houses were allowed to operate again, Airbnb establishments have finally been permitted to host guests again. 
  • It has introduced a new cleaning protocol, and former partnerships with local cleaning group to help train hosts.
  • Establishments with cleanliness ratings of more than four stars will be highlighted on its listing pages.
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Government finally lifted its ban on Airbnb hosting in South Africa on Monday – two months after other accommodation establishments were allowed to operate.

Like hotels and guest houses, Airbnb had to close its operations at the start of the lockdown on March 27th. But by mid-June, when other establishments were allowed to host business travellers – and later leisure guests - it continued to be banned by government, by name.

Two months ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a briefing that all accommodation establishments will be allowed to do business "with the exception of home sharing accommodation like Airbnb".

At the time Airbnb said it was consulting with government to seek “clarity” on why it was being excluded, given that it provided a financial income for its 35,000 hosts in South Africa. A survey in 2017 found that roughly half its hosts said they were freelancers, part-time workers, or stay-at-home parents who were supplementing their incomes through Airbnb.

An Airbnb spokesperson said that operators are now able to host guests in South Africa once again, following Monday's regulations.

“This is welcome news for local families who rely on hosting as an economic lifeline and will get South Africans and local economy moving safely again.”

But she added that the company is still looking into the finer details of the regulations. 

According to the new rules, only 50% of the “available floor space” of accommodation establishments may be used, with guests observing a distance of at least one and half metres from each other.

The company has promised to make its hosts wait 24 hours between bookings as one of a set of new protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

It has also launched a new “cleaning protocol” – standardised guidelines for cleaning and sanitisation at Airbnb establishments, and formed partnerships with the local cleaning groups Sweepsouth and Propaclean to train hosts and cleaners in Airbnb’s cleaning standards.

These standards include ventilating rooms, washing all linens at the highest heat settings, spraying chemical disinfectant on doorknobs and light switches, and providing guests with hand sanitiser, disposable paper towels, disposable gloves, disinfectant spray or wipes, and extra hand soap.

Hosts who get an average “cleanliness rating” from guests of more than four stars can choose to commit to the cleaning protocol and get a special highlight on their listing page. “This will let guests know that you’ve agreed to follow a higher standard for cleaning,” according to Airnbnb. Hosts with an average cleanliness rating of less than 4 stars can commit to the protocol, but won't get the special highlight on their listing until they demonstrate an improvement in their cleanliness ratings. 

Airbnb recently announced a partnership with Tourism KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape agency Wesgro to promote local travel as a way to support the recovery of the tourism sector in those provinces while international visitors stay away.

It has also launched a "Frontline Stays" initiative, to provide free or subsidised accommodation to healthcare workers in various parts of the world.

This week's new regulations allow establishments to host leisure travellers from other provinces for the first time.

(Compiled by Helena Wasserman and Phillip de Wet)

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