The Tourism Business Council of South Africa advised the government to regulate travel rental site Airbnb, as it is threatening the viability of conventional lodging providers such as hotels. The Council warns that this could lead to loss of jobs.
Airbnb, a privately held company established in San Francisco in the United States, has rapidly expanded globally, posing a threat to conventional lodging providers. The platform, which can be accessed through its website or mobile application, has also come other scrutiny in other parts of the world, with several countries introducing stricter regulations for the company.
Major cities in the world such as Chicago and New York in the United States and Barcelona in Spain have also introduced regulations to address the threat posed by Airbnb.
Blacky Komani, the recently elected chair of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa noted that the local industry is not opposed to Airbnb, but seeks the regulation of the short term letting company. He said “all we want is that Airbnb must operate within a regulatory framework”.
Komani added that “there must be some regulation. We are not saying there should be no disruption but there must also be compliance”. He said the local tourism industry which contributes about 412 billion rand or 8.9 percent of the Gross Domestic Product is struggling to recover from the effect of stringent visa regulations implemented in 2014.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government would ease visa regulations to encourage tourism. He said “within the next few months, amendments will be made to regulations on the travel of minors, the list of countries requiring visas to enter SA will be reviewed, an e-visas pilot will be implemented, and the visa requirements for highly skilled foreigners will be revised”.
The Tourism Business Council of South Africa has prioritised cementing ties with the government. Komani said “we will be reactive by responding to regulation. But we will also be proactive to ensure future legislation trends are reflected in the industry. It is key for us to work with the government. We will be looking for that collaboration”.
He noted that the Council has prioritised the recognition of tourism as a sector that contributes to economic growth and job creation.