Apartment-sharing startup Airbnb has taken bookings from more than 66,000 visitors coming to this month’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, from upmarket seafront districts like Copacabana to the city’s hillside slums, company officials said on Monday.
Joe Gebbia, co-founder and chief product officer of San Francisco-based Airbnb, said the number of reservations was still rising ahead of the start on Friday of the first Olympics to be held in South America.
Gebbia, who co-founded Airbnb in his living room in San Francisco in 2007, showed a map of Rio indicating reservations were spread across 54 of the 80 neighbourhoods in the city of 6 million.
With Rio facing a shortage of accommodation for visitors and battling its worst recession since the 1930s, authorities have designated Airbnb as official alternative accommodation services supplier for the Olympic Games.
Gebbia said the average guest was staying six nights and paying $136 per night, helping some residents earn something extra during the downturn.
“When you have a big event like this a service like ours allows a city to temporarily expand accommodation,” he told a news conference in an Airbnb rental apartment in Copacabana.
The 34-year-old, whose net worth is estimated at $3.3 billion by Forbes, said rooms were being taken “all over Rio … It’s taking the fire hose of tourism and visitors and distributing it across the many different neighbourhoods.”
Hosts in Rio would earn a total of around $25 million over the Olympics, said Gebbia.
About half the people staying in Rio for the Olympics are Brazilians, Airbnb said. The rest hail from 650 cities in 110 countries.
Leonardo Tristao, country manager for Brazil, said the average cost of Airbnb accommodation was below hotel costs during the Games, but he did not provide details.
He said the site would only accept accommodation from slums that had been wrested from the control of drug trafficking gangs pacified by police, such as the Vidigal neighbourhood overlooking the sands of Ipanema.
Airbnb, which operates in nearly 200 countries and expects to achieve profitability in 2016, secured a $1 billion debt facility in June from some U.S. banks to finance expansion plans.