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SA’s first Airbnb design consultancy is born

Cara and Lucy Design Air

The explosion of the Airbnb market in recent years has led to extensive discussion on the impact of the lack of regulation. According to two design and property marketing innovators, what has not yet been explored is what this has meant for the guest experience.

Cara Friedman and Lucy le Roux, the entrepreneurs behind South Africa’s first Airbnb design consultancy, Design Air, are first out the blocks to satisfy this need.

“When you stay in a 3-star or a 5-star hotel, you have a general idea of what the experience will be like,” said the pair. “When it comes to Airbnbs, however, there can be quite a few surprises.”

Having stayed in Airbnbs around the world, the duo became acutely aware that the lack of independent verification of Airbnbs was a loop hole in the system and that many hosts were missing some of the basics expected in the hospitality industry.

According to le Roux, while the Airbnb platform functions on trust, what it hasn’t factored in is the effect of guest empathy on creating less-than-forthright reviews.

“When you know your review will affect someone’s livelihood and you’ve gotten to know them, it’s not always easy to give an honest review online,” said le Roux.

Realising that a number of Airbnbs were offering less-than-ideal guest experiences they began exploring what hotels were offering that Airbnbs weren’t. The idea soon evolved to looking at the unique features that Airbnbs could offer that weren’t necessarily being capitalised on either. The timing for their consultancy seems serendipitous as recent changes by the Airbnb platform indicate that the start-up is beginning to reward and prioritise hosts who both deliver the basics expected in hospitality and who go the extra mile.

“The launch of Airbnb Plus, a selection of Airbnb-verified listings, is a step in the right direction,” said Friedman. “Cape Town is included as one of only 11 pilot cities, so this is so exciting as South Africa will have the chance to create some of the best Airbnb experiences in the world.”

Design Air is the brainchild of interior design and branding guru, Cara Friedman, and home stager/property stylist and marketer, Lucy le Roux. Combining their unique skill sets, Cara and Lucy are offering hosts and Airbnb management companies the chance to create a guest experience that to date has not been possible in either hotels or Airbnbs. By blending the best of both of these worlds they are helping hosts in the fast maturing local Airbnb market to stand out from the competition while introducing a new model to the hospitality industry.

Visit Design Air

Top image: Lucy le Roux and Cara Friedman, Design Air entrepreneurs


David A Steynberg, managing editor and director of HomeTimes, has more than 10 years of experience as both a journalist and editor, having headed up Business Day’s HomeFront supplement, SAPOA’s range of four printed titles, digimags Asset in Africa and the South African Planning Institute’s official title, Planning Africa, as well as B2B titles, Building Africa and Water, Sewage & Effluent magazines. He began his career at Farmer’s Weekly magazine before moving on to People Magazine where he was awarded two Excellence Awards for Best Real Life feature as well as Writer of the Year runner-up. He is also a past fellow of the International Women’s Media Foundation.

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