After a recent announcement from Airbnb that bookings in Nigeria have increased by 213% as of June 2018, with Ghana and Mozambique coming in second and third, what does this mean for hoteliers in Africa? While the results mean that there is increased interest by international guests to visit Africa, a win for the economy, are hoteliers losing out because of the online booking platform?

Tim Smith, Managing Director of global hospitality consultancy HVS says that some hoteliers feel threatened by Airbnb but in reality, he does not believe there is anything to be worried about.  In fact, he adds, hoteliers should be pleased with the publicity it is bringing to their sector.

“People are becoming more comfortable staying at Airbnb establishments globally, so when they are looking to visit cities such as Cape Town they are prepared to consider that option; it is a type of familiarity or loyalty almost,” says Tim, when asked how Airbnb is adding to the awareness of Africa as a travel destination. “Also flights to Africa are still expensive so if people can find accommodation for the whole family at a reasonable rate rather than having to book two or three rooms it can make the trip affordable.”

“Business travellers will continue to want hotels, for service, security, loyalty points at the company’s expense.  Leisure guests will look for more space but how many of them would have stayed in a hotel is debatable,” says Tim. “What is not debatable is that for too long African hotels have not provided the accommodation that all travellers want or need so new concepts like Airbnb, Stay at Once, mid-market hotels and serviced apartments are all starting to address those issues.”

“One area of hospitality that should be concerned are restaurants and bars.  The number of Airbnb guests varies on a nightly basis so the food and beverage outlets don’t know how many additional people will be in town.  That means they are almost certain to get it wrong and in turn either lose money or disappoint with poor service.”

So what can restaurants and bars do to tackle the increase in Airbnb visitors? “They need to work closely with the Airbnb to make sure they have a better idea of who is in town,” says Tim. “The good restaurant managers will already be speaking to hotel managers so they need to do the same with Air BnB landlords.  One way to do this would be to advertise in the AirBnB accommodation and thereby start a reciprocal relationship.”