Airbnb wants to move away from being strictly a home-rental firm to become a full-blown travel company, announcing a new service which it hopes will position the app as a one-stop shop for tourists.
The new feature, titled Trips, will have tour operators feeling a little uneasy, given that it promises to give travellers the option to book "immersive" travel experiences – a trend that started to catch fire in 2015 and has only got stronger throughout 2016.
News agency Reuters calls the new service "the most significant expansion since the company was founded eight years ago".
The move was announced by the Aribnb's s CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky at Airbnb Open - an annual conference - in Los Angeles, who stated that the new offering aims to bring together "where you stay, what you do and the people you meet all in one place".
The service is available now as an upgrade to the Airbnb app in four US cities – Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco – and eight other cities – Cape Town, Florence, Havana, London, Nairobi, Paris, Seoul and Tokyo. They will be in more than 50 cities next year, Chesky said.
How will Trips work?
As is the case with its rental service, locals will play host, putting on unique local travel experiences, such as violin making in Paris and marathon running in Kenya.
The tours and experiences might entail multi-day activities or one-off events such as concerts – it depends on the time travellers have available in the city and their area of interest, be that food, fashion, music, sport or history.
Airbnb will facilitate around 500 different experiences across 12 cities, with experiences able to be bought for under $200.
Airbnb is putting it's faith in the whole "immersive" travel trend, then...
It certainly is. These new experiences it's offering dovetail nicely with an Airbnb campaign from earlier in the year which urged travellers to skip the big tourist sites and hotels and opt instead to live like locals when abroad.
During the conference, Chesky spoke with great enthusiasm about how the new project will give travellers "unprecedented access to local passions and interests", while allowing hosts to "make money from their passions".
He added that Trips will be a "holistic travel experience" that will allow users to "immerse in the local community".
What other features does Trips have?
To supplement the experiences, Airbnb is adding 100 'Insider Guidebooks' to its app. Initially, these user recommendations will comprise tip-offs for just the six cities – Los Angeles, San Francisco, Havana, Nairobi, Detroit and Seoul – but you can expect more cities to be added shortly.
Airbnb also announced a partnership with restaurant booking platform Resy, which will mean users can make reservations at restaurants via the app. They will also be able access "experiential audio walking tours", thanks to a partnership with Detour.
Chesky also revealed Airbnb's planned expansion into flight offerings and other services in the future. Basically, Airbnb wants travellers to be able to research and book every leg of their trip through its app – that's pretty ambitious stuff. Tour operators are entitled to feel somewhat uneasy.
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