Airbnb has been officially launched in South Africa as part of the company’s plans to accelerate its growth in the country and on the African continent.

“South Africa is an incredibly beautiful and diverse country, with so much to offer visitors,” says CEO Brian Chesky on a visit to Johannesburg. “We have a vibrant and welcoming community here, which we look forward to expanding so that even more visitors can benefit from the unique and local experiences our hosts provide.”

Airbnb has named Nicola D’Elia as GM for the region. She was previously responsible for Facebook’s growth and partnerships in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. D’Elia will build out a team to accelerate Airbnb’s growth in Africa and the Middle East.

Statistics reflecting Airbnb’s growth in the country over the last 12 months include:

* South Africa is currently the largest market for Airbnb in Africa with 9 400 homes listed, an increase of 138%.

* South Africa is becoming an increasingly popular global destination, with the number of people staying in places booked through Airbnb in South Africa increasing by 257%.

* South Africans are embracing the service as well, with those using Airbnb to travel increasing by 163%.

* While most South Africans that have used Airbnb have travelled within the country, the most popular international destinations include the US, Italy, France and the UK.

* Across Africa, two of the five largest markets for Airbnb are in South Africa including Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Airbnb, the world’s leading community-driven hospitality company, is an online marketplace that allows travellers to connect with people who have spare space in their homes. For travellers, the chance to book and stay in someone’s home offers the chance to experience a destination like a local. For homeowners, Airbnb offers the potential to meet and host people from all around the world, as well as making some valuable extra income.

Founded in San Francisco in 2008, there are now more than 1,5-million homes available to book through Airbnb worldwide and more than 45-million people have travelled with the service globally.