Airbnb announced at a large internal conference covered by Skift
that it is branching out beyond linking travelers up with cheap rooms and will soon offer hosts and local communities opportunities to partner with it for tours, activities and hyper-local guides. Eventually, it hopes to allow its customers to book car rentals, restaurant reservations and grocery deliveries. Everything will be rooted in Airbnb’s increasingly robust and comprehensive app.
As we noted when Airbnb first started discussing the expansion last spring, the new efforts kill two birds with one stone: promising investors new sources of growth, while allaying political concerns about Airbnb’s alleged tax drain and overall impact on the tourism infrastructure. While coming at it from a different direction, the expansion bears certain similarities to Uber’s visions for moving beyond rides (a vision that is also at least partly initiated by politics).
Per Skift’s coverage, most of Airbnb’s initial focus will likely be on “Trips” and “Experiences.” Trips are offered as immersive, multi-day activities, while “experiences” will be shorter and more ad hoc. Seventy percent of trips in beta were produced by Airbnb hosts, with local non-profits producing the rest. Trips and Experiences are initially being provided in Detroit, London, Paris, Nairobi, Havana, San Francisco, Cape Town, Florence, Miami, Seoul, Tokyo and Los Angeles, with 50 cities expected by the end of 2017.
The guides component will include city by city hyper-local guides, with content contributed by guides and local authorities. There are also Airbnb Audio Walks– a collaboration with Groupon founder Andrew Mason’s Detour. Users will be directed to specific places and provided with helpful information depending on where they are. A typical one hour tour might have fifty location sync points, mostly using GPS, or when available, iBeacons for better accuracy.
As Mason describes it in a Medium post, he started Detour to better connect visitors to a community than tour groups and sightseeing busses. “Walks are designed to feel like an essential companion to your exploration of place. Many walks are loops, and designed so you can jump in anywhere along the way and listen for five minutes — or stay on for the hour-long circuit. And unlike traditional audio tours, Detour is a social activity. Just form a group to sync audio with friends.”
The initial Walks are in Downtown LA, and additional Walks are in production for San Francisco, London, Paris, Tokyo and Seoul. Mason has also sent out a “casting call” for interesting people to narrate the walks. Check out an interesting sample here.