Airbnb Expands Their Vision

by Jack Sommer

Last summer we wrote a post about how a partnership of Amazon's Alexa and Airbnb would make sense in making people's stay at their rented destinations more simple and practical. It was an idea that Airbnb had been playing around with following an employee hackathon. In our post, we talked about how we could see hosts providing a few of their favorite local attractions, eats, or activities - information that Airbnb could use to provide curated selections for travelers, picking the most popular choices from all of the local hosts. Basically, using the community's insight to create a sophisticated hyperlocal travel content system. 

Fast forward a few months and Airbnb officially announced it's transition in November 2016 from not only being a short-term rental service but additionally to grow into an all-encompassing more complete travel company with the addition of their "Trips" service. Where as before Airbnb only offered accommodations, now "Experiences" - such as activities like tours - are a curated product feature, too. Examples they've given so far include a Secret Surfing Trip in Malibu or Truffle Hunting in Tuscany or a Samurai Swordplay workshop in Tokyo. During 2017, the company plans to roll out more Experience packages.

There are some interesting experiences offered such as "Get Juiced" in Los Angeles (where you get to see the process behind the co-founder of the city's first mobile juice company) or Tropical Knitwear in Miami (where a fashion designer provides lessons to knit and crochet). However, the ones that we really find enticing and unique include Funkitup Tokyo (where you get to join a world famous keyboardist for a behind the scenes soundcheck, private show, and meal), hiking in the caves and craters of Narobi with a local photographer (where you get some of Kenya's finest coffee and then explore the depths of the country's wildest natural wonders), or getting a look into the Cuban countryside (where get to see a local farm in a small town and learn how to make delicious Cuban food yourself, led by economists and professors from the University of Havana). Navigating through all of the options, however, is not the easiest feat to do right now - although we're sure this will improve when they release and present the rest of the options this year. 

How it works is that hosts will be able to offer activities that can last anywhere from a few hours (dubbed as "single experiences") to longer adventures that can last up to several days ("immersions"). Queenstown, New Zealand, a prime vacation destination, was among the first regions to experiment with the concept of Experiences. The initiative will start with 12 major cultural capitals from Los Angeles to Havana to Florence to Paris - where it will begin with 500 unique experiences - and grow to 51 cities total by the year's end.

The idea initially came from when Airbnb thought about how the accommodation wasn't being the most interesting part of travel for people. “With our core younger audience craving unique experiences, it became obvious to us that to maintain relevance we should look at trips, and what Trips really means is end-to-end travel,” says Jonathan Mildenhall, the CMO of the company.

They are experimenting with their marketing of it a lot, too. Even just in 2017 so far they have done a 360° Twitter video campaign and been one of the first brands to try out Instagram's new Sponsored Stories format - not to mention initially premiering the concept of the service on Facebook Live campaign. But they aren't only focused on social media. For each experience, they also make a special video for each one (that plays natively on mobile) and a movie-esque poster to promote each of the Experiences. 

But they won't only be working against other companies, they'll also be working with them. Already they've teamed up with Resy, a restaurant booking platform - which they've so far invested $13 million into - that will be available to book at suggested local restaurants, and with Detour, who offers "experiential audio walking tours allowing people to discover neighborhoods in a totally unique and authentic way." 

We think Airbnb might even take their Experience ideas father by tapping into the ride-sharing market in a sense, where hosts could offer rides to specific places. Maybe they form a partnership with Uber and Lyft. But it's still an interesting angle with local hospitality twist.

Airbnb's already changed the hotel industry, and they will continue to. Now they're seeking the whole travel and tourist world. Fellow players better keep up before they get left behind.