Airbnb is experimenting with ‘experiences’, offering everything from bike rides to home-cooked meals – TechCrunch
Traditionally we have come to know Airbnb as a place where guests find accommodation in unique spaces and as a platform for guests to earn extra money by opening their homes to strangers. But over the past few months, the company has quietly tested a platform to connect visitors not only with places to stay, but with new offline “experiences” to try in the city.
Hidden on the Airbnb site are a series of activities available in San Francisco and Paris, all offered by various users of the platform. Experiences include a wide variety of guided tours around these cities, nature hikes and bike rides to neighboring areas, food and drink tastings, and available courses for users to participate.
This means that very soon Airbnb “hosts” might not just be the people who are making their apartments available for rent. They could also be amateur chefs, city tour guides, and instructors in various skills that would appeal to Airbnb users who come from out of town.
For Airbnb, adding experiences would add a valuable new revenue stream, while improving the overall customer experience for its customers. And the initiative fits well with the company’s ambitions to become not only a hotel alternative, but also a much larger hotel brand.
By recruiting service providers in local markets, Airbnb could further help its customers find activities while visiting new cities. The company has already taken steps in this direction, with the introduction a few years ago of its local neighborhood guides, which help highlight local attractions to outside customers.
But the latest push, if it takes off, could allow Airbnb to position itself more as an end-to-end destination for booking and planning trips, rather than just a platform for finding accommodation. One could imagine, for example, booking an Airbnb listing and then displaying a list of related activities nearby that could be scheduled during a customer’s stay.
And that could be bad news for other startups that have emerged over the years to connect users to interesting travel experiences online. Platforms like Peek and Vayable, for example, could be affected if Airbnb more closely associates its “experiences” with its bookings. (For what it’s worth, Airbnb and Vayable have already teamed up to provide customers with engaging experiences.)
Of course, for now, Airbnb’s experiences are clearly just a test. They’re only available in a few markets, and they’re not highlighted anywhere on the site or mobile app as far as I know. And, as an Airbnb spokesperson wrote, “We’re always experimenting with new ways to create meaningful experiences on Airbnb, so we don’t have any updates to share right now.”
However, the existence of these experience pages also indicates the company’s broader ambitions to expand beyond a simple peer-to-peer hosting market.
With a new funding round of $ 450 million recently closed, there is virtually no limit to what these ambitions could entail.