Digital tourism can create new opportunities

Some of Khayelitshas young entrepreneurs have collaborated with Airbnb to bring tourists to their spaces so they can experience the beauty of Khayelitsha.

The transition to digital tourism with good storytelling could attract more tourists to the townships and benefit local entrepreneurs.

With the evolving world, the township tourism industry is under pressure to change.

This emerged at the Khayelitsha Barn on Friday October 20, during a discussion between the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi) and Airbnb on how, through technology, tourism can generate new economic opportunities and authentic experiences.

Airbnb is an online marketplace enabling people to lease or rent short-term lodging.

In order to grow tourism exposure in Khayelitsha, Airbnb has collaborated with Khayelitsha’s bed and breakfast owners and tour guides. They will work together to bring community-led tourism to townships.

CiTi and Airbnb have joined hands to encourage the township tourism industry to use technology to attract tourists to their spaces. The two had a fruitful conversation on how tech can support inclusive tourism.

The discussion was attended by Chris Lehane, Airbnb head of global policy and communications, and Joshin Raghubar, CiTi chairperson, and other key players in the local tourism industry. The key point of the day was how local tourism entrepreneurs could use technology to grow their businesses.

The regional marketing manager for Airbnb, Velma Corcoran said Cape Town was selected as one of the first 12 cities in which Airbnb launched experiences globally.

She said in the lead up to the selection there was fierce competition from other cities and she was asked to put together a presentation that could showcase the best of Cape Town.

“Our vision with Airbnb experiences was to find transformative experiences, that could take people a little bit out of their comfort zone and have a profound impact on their lives.

“My instinct was that I could get Cape Town on the list, not through showcasing the beauty of the Table Mountain but through finding storytellers who were able to highlight different faces of the city from communities like Khayelitsha,” she said.

She used the story of two young entrepreneurs based in Khayelitsha as part of her presentation to show what visitors could experience.

The two are Buntu Matole and Ayanda Cuba, the co-founders of ABCD Concepts which gives tourists an experience of Khayelitsha through cycling or an 8km jog around the township.

Ms Corcoran said: “Through hosting on Airbnb, members of the Khayelitsha community can become part of the tourism economy. This will directly impact their lives, but also benefit the wider community, local business and shops,” she said.

She added that Airbnb could help unlock diverse communities that weren’t previously accessible to visitors.

Local entrepreneurs lauded technology and how they have benefited from the Airbnb initiative. ABCD Concepts, Khayelitrsha Indigenous Garden and the 18 Gangster Museum are among the entrepreneurs working with Airbnb. They all agreed that Airbnb has created a platform for tourists to form real connections with the them.

Manager at The Barn, Fezeka Mavuso said she was happy to offer space to like-minded people. She said the Barn promoted the use of technology and is the only technological hub in the area.

The collaboration was also lauded by the Khayelitsha Development Forum.

The forum said the partnership between the entrepreneurs and the Airbnb would help expose the real Khayelitsha and its people.

The forum’s chairperson Ndithini Tyhido said they are hoping to create a Khayelitsha where all of its people can call home. But he said to achieve that everyone needed to be active participants in that transformation.