Not content on disrupting just the hotel industry, Airbnb are now looking to expand its services beyond providing a place to stay. With the company launching a new service providing “travel experiences”, the company is now giving hosts the opportunity to provide one-off handcrafted tours to guests.
Whilst still in it’s early stages (it’s currently by invite-only private beta and at time of writing is only offered across 8 cities), from what we saw the new service looks pretty cool. Some of the experiences currently offered include learning sumo with a trainer in Tokyo, hunting for musical talent in London with a record company scout, farm-to-table cooking with a celebrity chef in LA or even performing in the streets of Paris with a experiential artist. It’s also interesting to note that the new booking platform feels more akin to the likes of Netflix, rather than that of a traditional travel-booking site.
This has the potential to be a very successful strategy for the company on a number of levels. Firstly, staying at a stranger’s home can be daunting; especially for those less seasoned travellers who may have not used the Airbnb platform before. By offering a whole end-to-end destination for travel planning and booking, Airbnb are now offering the ease and piece of mind of a full itinerary service traditionally provided by travel agencies.
It also addresses one of the biggest issues currently facing Airbnb. That is, the $25 billion dollar company has the potential to become a victim of it’s own success. Travellers generally book through Airbnb for the chance to live like a local and get an experience unlike the typical tourist experience. The current Airbnb marketing campaign has the tagline “live there” and presents its business model as low impact to the communities in which they operate, made up of everyday hosts occasionally renting out their own home. Yet as Airbnb continues to grow globally and become more of a vehicle for mass commercial tourism, the company runs the risk of eroding the very atmosphere in which it was created on.
If Airbnb’s latest strategy takes off with consumers, the possibilities are endless and something we’ll be keenly watching.