Airbnb hosts get candid about losing income during Covid-19

By Travel Reporter Time of article published Jul 31, 2020

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Airbnb hosts hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic have spoken about their challenges and how they are rising from it.

One such host is Joy Chimombe who hosts from her home in Pietermaritzburg. Many of her bookings were cancelled at the start of lockdown, and she has not earned any income from her Airbnb since. Having travelled before the start of lockdown, she was already quarantined at home.

Her life changed when she heard about Airbnb’s #GetBehindTheMask, a host-led movement to support communities struggling with the impact of Covid-19.

When a friend suggested she help make colourful masks with funds donated to the Solidarity Fund, she grabbed the chance to have a creative outlet and make an impact. She has since made, sold, and given away many masks.

“Masks are now mandatory in South Africa, but not everyone can afford to make or buy one, so I make masks to give to these people. During this time, lots of people struggle to get food, so the money from selling my masks goes towards feeding hungry people,” she said.

Chimombe wanted to ensure more people had access to masks.

Hloniphile Goqo, another Airbnb host, felt lucky to still be working through the pandemic in her role as an operations officer. She did put her studies on pause due to finances.

Goqo has been part of Airbnb family since August 2019 with her house in Boksburg.

« Not having guests or bookings means no income. It means no income for my housekeepers, no money to give to my mother who is a single parent and no money to pay for my two siblings who are at university, » she said.

Despite struggling with the financial impact of Covid-19, Hloniphile distributed cloth facemasks to people in the building complex and community where she lives in Johannesburg. At the start of lockdown, she bought 100 masks to give away. Many of these were gifted, along with food parcels, to people in need in her area.

On the decision that Airbnb accommodation cannot yet reopen, she believed home-sharing is potentially safer than hotels with far fewer guests.

Mohamed Kajee started hosting through Airbnb about five years ago. Kajee, who is the listed host in this instance, started with one place in Cape Town while working. When he moved to Johannesburg two years ago, he started a second Airbnb and left his job to focus on running both.

“That was my primary income. When Covid hit and everything was cancelled, everything went to zero. Like everyone in the industry, I’m trying to stay afloat. These are our places. We still have the bonds, expenses and staff we still need to pay. We have to find ways to keep paying them so that they can support their families.”

His wife, Saffiya Cachalia, is a doctor in the Covid-19 wards at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital. With this close proximity to the impact of the virus, Kajee feels very strongly about the importance of observing safety guidelines.

“I realise the importance of handwashing and wearing a mask and observing those guidelines. It might be irritating or uncomfortable, but if it is just a little bit of discomfort to go through to make sure older people or people with comorbidities are safe, then it’s worth it,” he said.

With its #GetBehindTheMaskCampaign, Airbnb aims to donate 50 000 masks to those in need.

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