Airbnb banned
(Getty)
  • While hotels and other accommodation providers will soon be able to reopen more fully, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday night said home-sharing – and Airbnb in particular – will remain banned.
  • Airbnb apparently doesn't know why. It is "seeking urgent clarity" about Ramaphosa's statement, it said on Thursday afternoon.
  • Gambling, hairdressing, and others must be allowed to reopen because some 500,000 people rely on those industries for employment, Ramaphosa said.
  • Airbnb estimates it has 35,000 hosts in South Africa.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.


Airbnb apparently does not know why it is being banned – by name – from reopening under an imminent relaxation of lockdown rules, but it would like to.

On Wednesday night President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that casinos, movie theatres, and hairdressers will all be allowed back to work. Restaurants will be able to serve sit-down customers, limited sport and conferences will resume – and "accredited and licensed accommodation" will also see rules relaxed.

With one exception. The relaxation will be "with the exception of home sharing accommodation like Airbnb," Ramaphosa said.

He did not say why, and no other company was specifically mentioned.

Airbnb has been reticent to speak about lockdown rules and the impact on its hosts. On Thursday afternoon it finally issued a statement in response to a Business Insider South Africa approach. It read, in full:

"We are seeking urgent clarity on President Ramaphosa’s statement so we can give clear guidance to hosts for whom hosting is an economic lifeline. All types of accommodation list on Airbnb - including hotels, entire homes and bed and breakfasts - and we are working with governments around the world to provide free accommodation to medical staff, prioritise public health through our enhanced cleaning protocol, and support economic recovery for local families, businesses and communities."

Last week Airbnb 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.

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

Airbnb has some 35,000 hosts in SA – not counting support services

The government appreciates the risks involved in allowing the reopening of gambling and personal-care establishments, Ramaphosa said on Wednesday, but felt it had little choice.

"Altogether, these industries employed over 500,000 people before the lockdown. We have had to think about these people and those who depend on them for their livelihoods," he said.

Airbnb most recently, in October, reported a total of 35,000 hosts in South Africa. It said that 65% of those hosts were women.

It is not clear how many hosts rely entirely or largely on Airbnb for their income. After a survey in 2017 the company said that roughly half its hosts said they were freelancers, part-time workers, or stay-at-home parents who were supplementing their incomes through Airbnb.

Ramaphosa said the dates and details around the relaxation would be announced "in due course".

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