In mid-November 2016, on the first day of the annual Airbnb Open conference in Los Angeles, the company's CEO Brian Chesky announced the formal launching of the group's newest product, 'Trips', before the assembled crowd of 7'000 hosts and guests from 100 countries worldwide.
'Trips' purports to offer tourists 'insider' experiences at the destinations to which they travel.
'Experiences' are excursions or other activities designed and led by local hosts (not necessarily those renting out accommodation; in fact only 10% of 'Trips' hosts are in this category, according to Cheskey).
According to Airbnb, "Hosts give guests unique access into places and communities in their city".
Hosts can offer both immersions and one-day experiences. Immersions take place over several days and are offered on pre-set schedules that can’t be modified, while one-day experiences can last just a couple of hours.
'Experiences' can range from workshops to long treks, and are designed for various skill levels and interests.
For example a tourist could take a lesson from a champion surfer in Sydney or discover the secrets of Japanese knives with a cutlery master in Osaka.
Besides targeting tourists, Airbnb also hopes to interest local residents in 'Experiences', which "are also a great way for locals to meet new people, learn a new skill or see their own cities with a fresh pair of eyes", according to the company.
At the same time, 'Places' was also introduced, which allows users to find highly curated, hand-picked recommendations for encounters, restaurants, and events in a destination.
The company has also hinted at starting up Airbnb Flights, and notes that guests will eventually be able to book car rentals, restaurant reservations, and grocery delivery services through the updated Airbnb app.
In fact, as a possible precursor for a move into air ticket booking, Airbnb has already established loyalty partnerships with several airlines, including, Delta Air Lines, Qantas and Virgin America.
These new products are part of Airbnb’s strategic thrust to become the “super brand of travel” by offering these services on a single travel platform.
“You can spend as much time planning your trip, as on your trip,” notes Chesky, who adds that, “We want to fix this … Welcome to the world of Trips, where we put Homes, Experiences, and Places together all in one place. We designed this to be both magical and easy.”
Trips are peer-to-peer tours
Airbnb’s Trips are mostly peer-to-peer, although Airbnb has partnered with some non-profit organisations to provide 'social impact' experiences for guests.
Originally 'Trips' were launched in 12 cities (including Detroit, London, Paris, Nairobi, Havana, San Francisco, Cape Town, Florence, Miami, Seoul, Tokyo, and Los Angeles). Amsterdam (where there are 30 'Experiences' on offer) was added to the list as the latest destination in July 2017.
Since launching Trips in November 2016, the total number of 'Experiences' had grown from 500 in 12 cities, to 1’800 in more than 30 markets by July 2017.
Also, Airbnb, claims that "tens of thousands of people" have begun the process to list an 'Experience'.
According to the company, monthly guests booking 'Experiences' grew by more than six-fold between January and July 2017.
Barcelona, in particular has seen strong growth in 'Experiences'.
Since launching at the end of February with 30 'Experiences', the city has quickly grown to offering more than 130 'Experiences'. It has become the most popular 'Experiences' destination, with more bookings per week than any other market.
San Francisco, Los Angeles, Paris, Tokyo and London are the five cities with the most 'Experiences' available. Besides Barcelona, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Paris and Tokyo are the cities with the most Experience bookings.
The price of a Trip experience ranges from about US$30 for 2-3 hour sessions to US$600 for multi-day excursions and the average cost per person in US$66.
Airbnb earns a 20% commission on trips booked, unless they are hosted by a non-profit organisation, in which case there is no commission and the organisation retains 100% of the proceeds.
'Trips' can combat isolation
Offering tours and activities fits into Airbnb's overall strategy which is to enable guests to 'live like a local'.
In addition, the company is also addressing a common drawback of staying in an Airbnb –or indeed any rental property - which is the sense of isolation and loneliness for guests staying in accommodations without a host present.
In fact, this aspect is a major disadvantage of Airbnb for travellers, as opposed to staying in serviced accommodation like hotels, B&B's and especially hostels.
Indeed, a key feature of branded hostel chains like Meininger, Wombat or Generator is encouraging guest interaction –both with each other and with locals – in the properties' bars and eateries, as well as through promoting tours and events.