AirBnB is Amazing for Zim but…

Accommodation and good temporary rental space or lodgings is definitely not just a first world problem. I took a trip to Bulawayo a week ago and found myself looking for good accommodation once I got there. I’m grateful for the internet and all these quick-finger-stroke-solutions that are out there. It really makes life easier.I had gone down on work duty so I had an option to be put up in a snazzy hotel in the city centre. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the type of space I felt would help me work better.

I needed something quiet, out of town, with great scenery. Don’t judge me! The creative juices needed to be fueled. Needless to say, a quick google search showed me a couple of places…then I noticed the Airbnb tag on most of them. My first thought was, “whoooa! We’ve got Airbnb in Zim?” I don’t know why it was a big deal to me. I mean it’s an online platform that doesn’t need to have its passport stamped at the border to start operating in a country. Though ZIMRA may want to consider looking into some extra money here 🙈.

So okay Airbnb works in Zim, we’re past that…how is it? Amazing would be the answer. Lots of options and so many of them with great ratings and reviews. Most of the reviews praising amazing hosts who gave people a home away from home. Of course, who doesn’t want to invite strangers into their homes like it’s the hippie 70s right? I quickly found what I wanted. I had several options and I used the in-app chat to ask a couple of questions. Like “do you have seating space outside where I can have meetings?”, or “Do you have a meeting room and does it come at an extra charge” and “do Y’all got a tv with cable? (I was trying to catch the last games of the World Cup).”

The hosts responded to me quite quickly by Zimbabwean service standards and I was happy. I could finally pick one and go to a little paradise in the city of kings. The charges were absolutely heavenly; I mean Airbnb took budget lodgings to a whole new level. Just to make sure (because I don’t trust the world like that) I could search for some of the lodgings on other platforms to compare costs; Airbnb always came out on top.

Unfortunately, my heart was soon broken. I started completing what I’ll call check out for one of the places. I got to payment and realized I needed a Visa card to pay for the place. And herein lies the problem;

  1. It’s not easy to get a Visa/MasterCard in Zimbabwe anymore
  2. If you do get a credit card you still need to deposit hard cash US dollars at your bank
  3. US dollars are only available on the black market with the word on the street pegging purchase of US dollars at an 85% premium (at the time of writing this post)

Given that little bit of backstory, I could do everything on Airbnb but I couldn’t pay and hence couldn’t book. Couldn’t book means I couldn’t stay in any of the surreal places I had found. Maybe Airbnb should consider allowing bookings to be confirmed and paid for at the place of lodging. Kinda like how Uber lets drivers accept cash and they balance out the accounts in the backend. Even worse is I knew that it’s impossible to try any side dealings with the hosts on the site as they may get blacklisted.

This ordeal really broke my heart. In any case maybe one day I shall be able to pay for my Airbnb using Ecocash. I mean 99% of mobile money transactions in Zimbabwe are made there.

A little summary of my Airbnb experience:

  • Website ✅✅✅✅
  • Options✅✅✅✅✅
  • Charges✅✅✅✅✅
  • Payment✅✅
  • Happiness level🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬

There is a huge opportunity for Airbnb to make reasonable revenues from the Zimbabwean market. Especially during conference times where one doesn’t want the hassle of making multiple calls and get their hearts broken multiple times by overly friendly front desk managers at fully booked lodgings. I would much prefer a situation where I can just find available places on Airbnb or a similar platform really. I am not a fan of copying services that work in the first world and pasting them into our unique Zimbabwean situation but this can work.

Opportunities are everywhere. Remember to always continuously improve yourself #kaizenYOU

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