Airbnb revamps lodging industry

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Home sweet home Lungi’s B&B is situated in Khayelitsha in Cape Town. When Nomalungelo Sotyingwa (inset) was looking to start a business, she came across Airbnb, and now runs the guesthouse through the app. Picture: Supplied
Home sweet home Lungi’s B&B is situated in Khayelitsha in Cape Town. When Nomalungelo Sotyingwa (inset) was looking to start a business, she came across Airbnb, and now runs the guesthouse through the app. Picture: Supplied

Nomalungelo Sotyingwa is the proud owner of Lungi’s B&B in Khayelitsha, but she doesn’t just get her clients through word of mouth – she uses Airbnb.

The hospitality service was started a decade ago by friends Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky when they were struggling to pay their rent in San Francisco in the US.

Both were design students and when they heard that the city’s hotels were filling up because of a major design conference, they hatched a bold plan. They decided to put three blow-up mattresses in their living room and rent out the space. They decided they’d also serve their guests breakfast.

Gebbia and Chesky uploaded a web page the next day and, six days later, a man from India, a woman from Boston and a man from Utah spent a night on their living room floor for $80 (R1 120) each.

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The idea caught on and another friend was roped in to design a more comprehensive web page. Their big launch was in 2008 when then US president Barack Obama was due to speak at the Democratic Party’s national convention and Denver’s hotel rooms were packed. The web page was uploaded two weeks before the convention and, within a week, Airbnb had 800 places to sleep listed on it.

Airbnb, which does not own any hotels, guesthouses or spare rooms, is today estimated to be worth R30 billion and it’s the same company that helps Sotyingwa in Khayelitsha earn money to look after her family.

She was pregnant with her third child when her husband ­suddenly passed away, and she had to come up with a plan to make some money, so she started Lungi’s B&B. However, she ­suffered a major setback when a part of the guesthouse burnt down in 2014 after a fire started in her neighbour’s shack.

Sotyingwa reopened her doors to the public in September 2015 and Airbnb is her most important marketing tool.

“Airbnb made a huge difference to my business,” says ­Sotyingwa. “In just one week in October, I got four reservations through Airbnb.”

Lungi’s B&B also has its own website and can be found using Google Maps.

Sotyingwa says she also received useful training from Airbnb.

“I downloaded the Airbnb application onto my phone and I run my whole business from my phone.”

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