• Sunday, June 16, 2024
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Nigerian hosts on Airbnb commence accepting guests as economy gradually reopens

Nigerian hosts on Airbnb commence accepting guests as economy gradually reopens

Ahead of planned full resumption of activities across sectors of the Nigerian economy, and the reopening of international airports in October, hosts on Airbnb, an online marketplace that connects travellers with local hosts, are seeing traffic in apartment reservations.

A survey by Businessday shows that Nigerian hosts who suffered revenue losses from not accepting guests coupled with the slow down in bookings in the last four months due to COVID-19 are beginning to open their doors to guests.

“Airbnb shows us statistics and from what I can see, there is a lot of traffic as guests are making their bookings ahead of time, ” Catherine Odomore, a host on the online platform who just welcomed her first guest since the pandemic said in Lagos.

According to her, while the price of a single room apartment dropped from about $45 per night in January 2020 to $36 in April, the recent surge in demand will take the price back to its initial position.

“I stopped accepting guests when coronavirus entered Nigeria, even though we normally do a background check on our potential guests, I didn’t want to take chances and the case was the same for a lot of my friends using the platform, ” another Airbnb host who didn’t want his name to be mentioned said.

He explained that even though some of his industry colleagues who use the platform as their only source of income were willing to accept guests during the lockdown in Nigeria, ”there were no reservations due to the restriction on both local and international movement.”

To flatten the COVID-19 curve in Nigeria where over 48,000 cases have been confirmed since the virus first entered the country on February 28, the Federal Government enforced a five-week lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and FCT, and closed both local and international airport while ensuring full compliance with the compulsory nationwide curfew of 10 pm to 4 am.

Following the hardship suffered by many households, especially the most economically vulnerable who depend on their daily earnings for survival, the federal government on May 4 began to gradually reopen its economy.

“Our bookings in April were all cancelled,” Kelvin Oyamedan, a co-owner of two properties on Airbnb in Abuja said in a tweet.

According to Karen Xie, an associate professor of service analytics at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business, Airbnb saw cancellations of 85 percent of existing bookings. ”COVID-19 put a pause on travel,” he said.

While Nigeria resumed its local flight on July 28, players in the hospitality industry are optimistic that it will reopen its international airport even before the scheduled date in October.

Before COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria’s hospitality industry was expected to leverage its hotel room capacity of 7,940, the secondlargest in Africa after Egypt and the growing Airbnb sub-sector to post an estimated annual growth above 4percent in 2020 but with the outbreak of the virus, the projected growth now seems too ambitious.

Analysis of the 2019 data by the Airbnb showed that Nigeria reported the fastest growth of 325percent over the past year with effective locations at Ibadan, Abuja and places in Lagos like Lekki County Apartments, Mixta Apartments, Urban Shelter Apartments, Lekki Gardens Apartments and many more as high yield accommodations.

According to the Californian- based property company, the platform has continuously enjoyed rapid growth in Africa. The number of guests who use Airbnb annually in Africa more than doubled over the past year from 572,000 to 1.2 million.

The figures show a 5th straight year of strong growth from a base of just 6,000 listings and 22,700 guests in 2012-2013.

But Nigeria’s position as the largest economy in Africa is yet to rob off on the country’s Airbnb industry which has in the last five years lagged its peers in terms of market size.

While South Africa, Morocco and Kenya are top on the ranking as the countries with the largest Airbnb markets in Africa, Nigeria is only able to occupy the fifth position, a recent report by Airbnb shows.

Checks by Businessday revealed that the fear by Nigerians to use their debit cards to make online reservations, the lack of trust that the advertised apartments online will be the reality on the ground coupled with security challenges are some of the particular issues that are daunting the growth of Airbnb in Nigeria.

Originally called Airbed & Breakfast, Airbnb operates as an online marketplace, connecting travellers with local hosts. The platform enables people to list their available space and earn extra rental income. It enables travellers to lease or rent short-term lodging including vacation rentals, apartment rentals, homestays, hotel beds or hotel rooms.