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Airbnb has high hopes for Africa in 2017, seeking to double its customer base

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As Africa becomes an increasingly popular tourist destination, Airbnb is looking to make its mark on the continent as well.

Looking to go to Africa this year? You and Airbnb both. On Friday, the vacation rental company’s CEO, Brian Chesky, told Reuters of his plans to “maintain its rapid growth in Africa this year,” as well as an ambitious new customer target of 1.5 million — double its current rate.

As it stands, the number of people using Airbnb in Africa already increased 143 percent in 2016; about 765,000 people used the service last year, Nicola D’Elia, the firm’s Africa and Middle East chief noted. “If you just look at 2017, it’s going to double, you will have 1.5 million people at the end of this year,” she added.

Chesky echoed these sentiments, noting that the company fully expects to increase their African customer base by another 100 percent in 2017. “Certainly that would be the forecast,” he said in an interview in Cape Town. “This is literally just the beginning. It (Africa) is still relatively under-penetrated.”

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Africa is clearly a major continent for Airbnb to target, as it boasts a population of more than a billion people. Currently, the company has about 77,000 homes listed in the continent, a small proportion of its 3 million across the world, but Chesky hopes this number will soon balloon to “hundreds of thousands.” After all, the 77,000-home figure Airbnb hit in 2016 is already a 95 percent increase from 2015.

At present, South Africa is the most popular country in Africa when it comes to Airbnb listings and visitors — many tourists from the U.S., Germany, the U.K., and the Netherlands opt to stay in local homes rather than hotels. Airbnb’s top cities in Africa are Cape Town, Marrakesh, Johannesburg, Nairobi, and Casablanca, but visitors may be surprised to find listings all over the continent, including some in St Helena island, Freetown in Sierra Leone, and Somalia.

In any case, Chesky certainly has high hopes for Airbnb in Africa, calling the continent “an incredibly exciting emerging market for travel.”