Local Airbnb competitor Afristay has received millions in funding from South African and international investors.
Afristay, formerly known as Accommodation Direct, was started in 2006 by local entrepreneurs Oliver Bryant and Ric Meulemans.
Afristay CEO Rupert Bryant said that while Accommodation Direct was a good name, it was generic and they settled on Afristay.com which they purchased through Southsoft eBusiness Solutions a prominent IT company based in Johannesburg.
“We decided that we wanted a name that better represented who we are: Easy online bookings combined with friendly customer service in Africa,” said Bryant.
The name change is only the start of exciting upcoming developments at the company, said Bryant.
To improve its current offerings and accelerate growth, Afristay raised R7 million earlier this year. The funding was raised privately, from three local investors (Rupert Bryant, Oliver Bryant, and Ric Meulemans), and two international investors.
Taking on Airbnb
Bryant said their success to date shows that they can beat Airbnb in South Africa.
“We can typically offer the better price on accommodation since we have no guest booking fees (Airbnb charges around 7%),” said Bryant.
He said their customer service is excellent and users can “pick up the phone anytime, call us, and we answer”.
“We make a big effort to take good care of our guests and property managers and ensure their experience is superb, from start to finish.”
To ensure service levels remain high, Afristay has over 35 consultants who are experts in travel in sub-Saharan Africa.
“As a result of taking care of our guests, our repeat bookings and word of mouth referrals are quickly growing, and we don’t have to sink loads of cash into online marketing.”
This growth is not slowing, and the company now employs 50 full-time staff and has quadrupled in size over the past year.
“We now process R4 million in bookings per month, and are doubling in size every six months,” said Bryant.
Afristay is hoping to process over R50 million in bookings in 2017.