Airbnb the third party, online hospitality service has quickly become a globally adopted product, now available in over 190 countries. I spoke to Christine Da Silva brand ambassador for Airbnb Cape Town, about the challenges and successes of working with this innovative business model in the SA landscape.
What do you do in your role as an ambassador?
In places and territories were Airbnb doesn’t have offices, like South Africa they usually make use of brand ambassadors on the ground to help activate the region. This means I help onboard hosts to the platform, I guide them through the signup process and answer any questions they have on their journey with Airbnb. It also means that I host events once or twice a month at various locations around the city for existing hosts to help them answer questions on the brand platform, issues they’re experiencing or expose them to helpful tips they can apply to their own hosting journey.
What do you enjoy most about working for this brand?
Well, I first found Airbnb as a traveler back in 2009. My own first travel on the platform was around 2011, so I really got to experience what Airbnb’s about. I love the idea of staying in people’s homes and having a home base away from home when traveling. It’s really nice to meet like-minded people on your journey. One the mottos for Airbnb is staying with friends that you haven’t met before, which is really nice. I have always had a passion for hospitality and travel and enjoy hosting in my own home. So I meet and greet and have people come and stay with me as well, to experience people from different places and get to know their cultures. In fact, my very first encounter with SEO was first an online inbound African travel operator where I fell in love with digital marketing and travel alike. So to be an ambassador for a brand that combines the best of both of these worlds; being able to make a difference on the ground and expose some of their plans made the role very appealing.
It’s quite surprising that this kind of product would be so well received especially in countries like South Africa, where there are many barriers of mistrust and misconception. How do you think Airbnb has managed to overcome these boundaries?
Airbnb is continually innovating their product, which I think makes a very big difference. They innovate almost on a weekly basis, I see something happening and changes on the platform itself or there’s an update to the app within my app store. One of the parts I play as an ambassador is to flag issues with the app or experiences that could improve the overall functionality and usability for hosts and travelers alike. Airbnb has spent a really long time working on lowering barriers to entry. One of the ways they do this is by having brand ambassadors to gently guide new users based on their own experiences. The second is how they’ve structured the actual process. As a host you are completely protected in terms of privacy as well as security with regards to the payment options. Airbnb will only reveal your address and contact details upon a confirmed booking. This means that your property is completely private and secure. On booking, they also immediately deduct the full booking amount from the guest and keep this safe until 24hrs after the guest arrives at your accommodation. This protects both the host as well as the guest. The host as they guarantee that the person has paid and the guest because if they arrive at your home they at least know that the place does exist. And they’ve also got 24hrs in which to call Airbnb if they don’t find the place is exactly the way that they thought it was going to be. So Airbnb will put them up in a different accommodation and use that money for the new accommodation. It’s a really nice way of keeping both parties completely safe. There’s also a couple of other ways that Airbnb on-boards unsure hosts. One of the biggest draw cards is the insurance policy they have. All properties are covered up to a million dollars, in SA 1 million Rand, for any damages made by guests to the property during their stay.
Working so closely with clients what have you found to be the biggest thing Airbnb has improved about the way people travel?
Certainly the trust factor and how people open up their homes to absolute strangers. And as Airbnb comes in at various cost levels the platform has made it easier for more people to travel, especially if they don’t have to stay in a hotel, which can be quite costly. Single travelers are traveling more as well, if they are staying a shared room they can connect with the person actually living in the home and they get to experience the city as a local. So we’ve returned to a very much older way of traveling, when people used to go and stay with family, friends or long lost relatives. It’s not really new it’s just revived.
What’s next for Airbnb SA?
Although I can’t divulge all the details, something you may have seen launched in October was actually Trips. Trips or experiences allow access for guests to places or experiences they wouldn’t ordinarily have access to without that particular host. So Airbnb is really trying to become the entire travel experience.
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About this Article
A look at Airbnb’s success in South Africa through the eyes of an ambassador.Guest