Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane. Picture: NTSWE MOKOENA
Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane. Picture: NTSWE MOKOENA

Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has extended the comment period for the contentious “Airbnb” bill.

The controversial Tourism Amendment Bill is seen as Kubayi-Ngubane’s first real test since taking charge of the tourism portfolio earlier in June when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his cabinet.

In a notice published in the Government Gazette on Tuesday, Kubayi-Ngubane said interested parties would be allowed to table submissions until July 15. The initial deadline was June 15.

The government is under intense pressure to abandon proposed new regulations for short-term home rentals, including those on popular online platforms such as Airbnb.

Opponents of the Tourism Amendment Bill argue that it will hurt the tourism industry, one of the few sectors identified as having the potential to pull SA out of its economic malaise.

SA has the largest travel and tourism sector in Africa, contributing about R426bn to the local economy in 2018, according to research by the World Travel and Tourism Council. The sector is responsible for 1.5-million jobs, or 9.2% of total employment in SA.

Its opponents say the bill represents a legally and economically unjustifiable intervention in the private and commercial affairs of ordinary South Africans.

The government published the “Airbnb” bill for public comment in April.  Should it be signed into law, short-term home rentals will be regulated under the Tourism Act.

The minister of tourism could then specify various “thresholds” in terms of Airbnb rentals in SA. This could include limiting the number of nights that guests can stay or how much money an Airbnb host can earn. According to the department of tourism, this would level the playing field by ensuring that “everyone gets their fair share”.