Forget homes: Airbnb wants to own your entire trip

Airbnb has revealed the next stage in its evolution to make it easier for hosts and guests to build a better community while designed to facilitate “meaningful and magical moments”. The company has released trips, experiences, and new features for hosts to manage their listings.

“For many people, traveling is easy, but it’s not magical,” proclaimed company chief executive Brian Chesky. “We don’t think there should be a tradeoff. But the question is how do you create magic?” He recounted the notion of a hero’s journey, which was coined by American scholar Joseph Campbell and this resulted in Airbnb having an epiphany where the home was just a small part of the great journey, and that the company had a bigger mission to pursue. “It’s about immersing in local communities.”

Part of that vision includes an updated app centered around trips and experiences. Initially termed as “magical trips” reported by Skift on Wednesday, this new program facilitates peer-to-peer-like tours and activities. With experiences, if you travel, the problem is that it’s hard to meet people that live in a local community. Experiences are hand-crafted experiences offered by local hosts. There are immersions and also single experiences which last a few hours. They’re organized by passion and passion. You can scour through things such as neighborhoods, food and dining, and more — think of them as travelogues or perhaps Twitter Moments but more in-depth and centered around maximizing the experience you’re supposed to have.

Half of the experiences you’ll find are below $200, according to Chesky, and you can instant book it from within the Airbnb app. It’s been in private beta for a few months, but is now going to be more widely available. Trips launches 500 experience in 12 cities worldwide including Detroit, Paris, Nairobi, Havana, San Francisco, Cape Town, Florence, Miami, Seoul, Tokyo, and Los Angeles.

But what if you want to check out local spots? Airbnb has added places which replaces guide books to help you really find what those in the community go to eat, do on the weekend, and more. Insider guidebooks are local insiders that recommend things for people. Instead of providing a list of places for people to go with no sense or direction, Airbnb has opted to start from the perspective of the person.

Not only do you get written guides, but also audio walks which you can use to navigate your way around

The app includes options to meet up with others in the city and also highlighting things that are near you right now.

Chesky said that soon you’ll be able to book reservation through the Airbnb app. The company has partnered with Resy so you’ll be able to book reservations around the world, with Airbnb providing context and relevant places you may want to try.

All of these features are now live in the Airbnb app.

The unveiling of these features took place at the company’s annual Airbnb Open conference. It’s here where company executives keep hosts engaged in the progress of the platform as they’re one of the main lifelines. To emphasize this point, Airbnb brought on board Donna Boyer as its first head of product focused exclusively on hosts. This year’s event happens to be the first one she’s attending, and her presence and what she says could have an impact on hosts’ expectations.

Airbnb is the trip platform

Chesky envisions Airbnb being the trip platform, teasing that with “people power”, the company will soon encompass the entire travel experience, including not only home, experiences, and places, but also about flights and services. He declined to cite more specifics, but there’s likely going to be integrating its app into other offerings so that the app becomes the de facto thing that travelers use, simplifying their trip so they focus on what’s in front of them instead of having to try and plan their entire day.

“If you have a passion, if you have an interest, or if you have a hobby, you can share your community with others in the world because you see travel has never been about where you go, but about who you could become,” the company’s CEO said. “And this is something that we would love to be able to build together. We invite you to join us in this adventure together.”

Push beyond the home

Today’s announcements around the expansion beyond the home isn’t really that surprising as the company teased it during a press event in April. At that time, Airbnb unveiled a new campaign engineered to change how we view “traveling”, morphing it from being a tourist to living like a local.

Quite a bit of effort has been made around empowering the home, such as providing “smart” tools to improve host performance and maximize bookings, adding integrations with connected devices such as August smart locks, Kevo, Lockstate, Nest, Yale Locks, Unikey, and Danalock, supporting business travel certifications, and more. But over the past few years, it has been expanding its sphere of influence to focus more on things to create a more holistic experience, namely the community.

Four years ago, Airbnb launched its Neighborhood program which essentially is a tour guide curated by locals. It’s now integrated into the company’s main app, and helps guests feel more like they belong where they are, even though they’re only temporarily staying there. And then there’s also guidebooks a la TripAdvisor and Yelp which are category-focused, such as drinks and nightlife, sightseeing and attractions, parks and nature, arts and culture, and shopping.

Its evolution towards the bigger picture, while likely beneficial to its users, could also be an effort to instill a belief amongst investors that it has what it takes to be a public company, should it pursue that route. Airbnb not only has unsettled traditional lodging and accommodation companies, but has become more valuable than the most popular chains — in fact, a Morgan Stanley analyst estimates that Airbnb’s threat to hoteliers is increasing. But it can’t keep up its growth by simply focusing on homes, which are finite in number — so now the company is extending its reach to adjacent touch points and services to provide an experience it believes it’s uniquely qualified to create.

Resistance from the community

While Airbnb continues to push forward with making it possible for hosts to continue monetizing their homes to guests, it’s not been without some resistance in the community, namely those who wish for tighter regulations on the company.

In the aftermath of the defeat of San Francisco’s Proposition F in 2015 which would have enacted a short-term rental ban, other efforts have emerged to stem Airbnb’s growth. In fact, this week during the company’s annual conference in Los Angeles, housing advocates protested alleging that the platform restricts available housing supply.

“It’s not home sharing, it’s home stealing, and it has to stop,” James Elmendort, the deputy director of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, an advocacy group for hotel and airport workers, told the Los Angeles Times. And it’s not just in Southern California, but in places such as San Francisco where Airbnb had been rebuked by a district judge claiming the company has failed to crack down on vacation rentals in private homes. Seemingly under pressure and facing potential stringent regulations from the city’s Board of Supervisors, the company this week did an about face and said it is now ready to police hosts.

Other cities where Airbnb faces issues are New York City, Barcelona, and Paris, although there are likely others.

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