By Brindaalakshmi K and Nikhil Pahwa
Airbnb is expanding across the travel sector, and will no longer be just a BnB and hotel aggregator: the company has launched Trips, which will offer customers tours and activities, and plans to add flights and services in the future. This reminds of what Cleartrip was attempting in India, when it expanded beyond ticketing to include activities). With this shift, because it combines pretty much what most travelers intend to do, threatens existing travel service providers, because it means that it now starts aggregating more than just hotels, including tours, experiences, flights, trip recommendations, booking restaurants. All of these are in partnerships with other companies, but it appears as if they’ll become the primary travel platform with this.
Airbnb’s Trips now has three key areas – Experiences, Places and Homes:
- “Experiences” allows users to book experiences designed and offered by local experts and chefs, and includes categories like arts & design, fashion, entertainment, sports, wellness, nightlife, food & drink, nature, lifestyle, history, music and business. These aren’t tours, but actually working with locals in, for example, trying out new foods, painting a mural, buying a dress etc. Among the experiences are also Social Impact experiences, in collaboration with Non Profits, where 100% of the money goes to the non profits.
- Places: appears to be Airbnb’s response to Tripadvisor. Places is essentially the digitization and aggregation of what many Airbnb hosts were already offering: local information on what one should do in their neighborhood. The company says that there are over 1 million recommendations worldwide from Airbnb’s home hosts, including cafes, restaurants, parks and local attractions, which is being pitched by Airbnb as “an alternative to aggregated tourist lists that funnel people to the same places.” Airbnb has tied up with restaurant booking platform Resy, making it possible for people to book tables directly through the app.Places has Insider Guidebooks, with “cultural experts and neighborhood insiders to recommend the hidden gems within their city. Find the perfect run from a marathoner, the best dive bar from a local mixologist and the next great undiscovered restaurant from an up-and-coming chef.” Airbnb has a partnership with Detour to offer access to amazing experiential audio walking tours allowing people to discover neighborhoods in a totally unique and authentic way. At launch, audio tours will initially be available for Los Angeles with San Francisco, Paris, London, Tokyo and Seoul to follow by Spring 2017.
Places also have meetups, which are free, and a feature called “Nearby Now”, a feature that points out nearby places, with recommendations.
- Homes takes Airbnb beyond just booking bed-and-breakfast accommodations to including additional services which people use when they stay somewhere: car rental, ordering groceries. Homes also now indicate details like what kind of furniture and facilities a home or a room you’re renting has.
Presently, it has launched Trips with around 500 experiences in 12 cities worldwide, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Detroit, Havana, London, Paris, Florence, Nairobi, Cape Town, Tokyo and Seoul. It expands to 50 cities next year, including New Delhi.
The company claims that over time, this feature will be further developed using machine learning to dynamically offer personalised suggestions based on location.
Along with Trips, Airbnb has also introduced a new identity authentication process for the Airbnb Experiences Community to use. Hosts and guests will have to share a scanned copy of an official government ID and also a simple selfie. After the ID is authenticated, the ID and selfie will be reviewed to confirm that both pictures appear to match.
Airbnb entered India in 2012 in partnership with the Springstar incubator, which was helping the company expand internationally, including in India.. In April 2016, AirBnB signed a strategic partnership agreement with, and raised an undisclosed amount of investment from the Times of India Group. The company presently claims to have a network of 3 million homes across 191 countries.