Christiaan Scholz, Tourism Update
South Africa is on the cusp of being the newest cannabis-friendly tourism destination as Hibnb moves into town and starts signing up local hospitality establishments.
South African cannabis tourism industry is starting to pick up, according to Hibnb, a North American based cannabis tourism platform styled along Airbnb.
According to Tourism Update, the cannabis tourism industry in the US is alredy a US$17million a year business and is just beginning to take off - and South Africa has enormous potential.
Tourism Update spoke to Elizabeth Becker, CEO of Hibnb in Canada, and Daniel Montero from the US, who is Hibnb’s South African liaison.
Hibnb is an online accommodation booking platform (just like Airbnb) but with the focus on offering guests cannabis-related lodging.
Becker and Montero claim there has been a recent influx of listings from South Africa who are looking to join the Hibnb portfolio, although they are still battling to overcome the global stigmatisation associated with cannabis.
“Our biggest challenge remains that there are still stereotypes associated with cannabis, but I would say that the cannabis tourism industry in South Africa is even more developed than it is here in Canada,” said Becker.
Both believe that the economic benefits and opportunities in South Africa are limitless after witnessing what is currently happening in California.
California is trialling a cannabis business model for which Becker said the profits had been unimaginable. He did, however, raise caution by revealing that the big marijuana companies in the US were starting to focus more on profits while leaving the culture of cannabis behind.
“We do not want that for South Africa. We believe the key will be to find a balance between profits and culture if the country wants to see the most economic and tourism-related benefits.”
According to the Hibnb duo, the response for cannabis-friendly accommodation has been tremendous.
“Our goal is to create a way to get people together globally to connect with others who share the same passion for cannabis. It is not just about cannabis, it is also about the restaurants and surrounding people involved in the hospitality industry that we want to focus on. We want to create a curating experience for guests while simultaneously promoting the cannabis culture,” said Montero.
Becker added: “The advantage to South Africa accommodations to list on HiBnb is to reach a broader and international market. Listing on Hibnb is absolutely free. We also operate just like Airbnb. We collect a commission on sales only once sales are flowing through. Anyone can join our community by visiting and signing up on the Hibnb website.”
Becker further revealed that Hibnb’s calendar synchronised with Airbnb, meaning that residences did not have to worry about conflicting bookings. They also guarantee every booking with US$1.5m insurance cover.
SA’s cannabis tourism offerings
South Africa’s cannabis tourism offerings mostly include ‘bud and breakfast’ accommodations, which simply refers to places where guests can stay and enjoy smoking their marijuana.
Treedom Villas and Vardos located in Wilderness National Park in the Western Cape is one such lodging, and owner Debbie Nortje told Tourism Update that demand was huge because of their ‘cannabis friendliness’.
“People increasingly want to visit a place where they can relax and smoke their joints without it being frowned upon. We also direct our guests to Pleasantrees where they can buy all their desired cannabis products,” Nortje said.
Purple Haze Eco Lodge in the Eastern Cape is also pro-dagga, and guests can spark it up on top of the lodge’s deck. Visitors are also informed of the very friendly Golden Retriever named Mojo.
Owner Loaf Coetzer has told Tourism Update that he plans to operate two- to three-day cannabis tours in the Transkei in the future, while also planning a possible 420 restaurant (one where people can enjoy food while smoking marijuana).
Cannabis tours in South Africa are, however, not an entirely new concept. High Holidaze in Johannesburg is offering four- or five-day itineraries that include activities such as learning how to grow cannabis and how to cook with the plant as an ingredient, visits to a Rastafari community in Soweto, and many others ranging from going to the Cradle of Humankind, to touring in the world-famous Vilakazi Street.
The general consensus around the cannabis tourism industry in the country seems to be that the market is ready to explode, but when government will finally implement new laws to allow for the inevitable boom remains to be seen.