Airbnb is in the process of moving from a short-term rental service to a full-scale travel agency. The San Francisco-based company has shaken up the hotel business by allowing landlords and tenants to rent rooms and homes. Now he is trying to do the same for the travel and tourism industries. The new initiative is called Airbnb Travel, and it now provides the company with a way to deliver an experience instead of hosting. It could be a class or lesson on an obscure topic like ramen making in Tokyo, or a day trip to a secret surf spot in Malibu.
“If you want to have an amazing trip, you basically end up on a research project,” said CEO Brian Chesky, who announced the news today on stage at the company’s annual Airbnb Open in Los Angeles. Angeles. Yet, he adds, “you stand in line, you are alone, you are outside and you do things the locals never do.” Airbnb Trips is one way around this, says Chesky. “If you have a passion, interest, or hobby, you can share your community with others around the world.” Airbnb starts with 12 cities, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Paris. The goal is to launch trips to more than 50 cities by next year.
The new platform allows people to offer services that last either for days, called dives, or hours, called unique experiences. You can also filter by categories, like food, or move from the experience you want to be where you want to go. As part of the rollout, Airbnb said it has partnered with a restaurant reservation startup called Resy to allow you to reserve a table at a popular place to eat through its platform. He also implemented a new timeline feature under the “Trips” tab, which Chesky says will allow the company to understand where you are going, what gaps you have in your trip and what your preferences are. to recommend activities. These features are now available on Airbnb.com and through its mobile applications.
The goal is to expand the range of services Airbnb hosts can offer. This way, more and more travelers see Airbnb as a destination for finding cool things to do in a new city, and not just a place to sleep. Meanwhile, Airbnb can woo more hosts on its platform who can substitute their knowledge or expertise in place of a room to rent. In an odd twist, Airbnb Trips opens up the possibility that hosts can also offer rides to specific locations, putting it in slight competition with ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft.
Due to its rather limited usefulness as a hotel alternative, Airbnb has often devoted a great deal of its time, energy, and money to fighting municipal regulations. Cities have fought Airbnb for its contributions to urban gentrification, rising rents, and landlord abuse. Just last week, the the company’s hometown, San Francisco, ruled that Airbnb hosts could only list homes and apartments for rent for a maximum of 60 days per year, in addition to forcing hosts to register with the city. This is mainly to prevent people from exploiting multiple listings simultaneously in violation of housing regulations, as well as the abuse of local eviction laws.
In October, Airbnb sues New York State after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that imposed heavy fines on hosts who list vacant residences in multi-unit buildings for less than 30 days. The state says these short-term rentals open the door for landlords to operate illegal hotels, a violation of New York law since 2010. Airbnb fears the bill could sink its business into its most lucrative market if he can’t find some kind of compromise. .
Uber, with its massive war chest, can afford to fight tooth and nail with regulators. As an industry juggernaut, Uber is also used more frequently on a daily basis than Airbnb, and it waged war on New York City last year using attack ads built into its own app to achieve victory. on a bill. Similar efforts by Airbnb, including a muted ad campaign in San Francisco last fall, have often backfired.
As its legal woes continue to mount, Airbnb is looking beyond accommodation and transforming into a holistic travel site. That’s not to say he won’t continue to fight restrictions on rentals and other municipal measures – he may settle his lawsuit with New York. However, it illustrates Airbnb’s desire to expand beyond the sharing economy and into a whole new realm of travel and guidebook offerings.
By going from hosting to just about any type of service in the real world, Airbnb is opening itself up to all kinds of complications. It’s unclear how it will validate new offers, assess the expertise of hosts and guests if the activities are life-threatening, or protect against scams and scams. Airbnb has built important protections, including a $ 1 million host guarantee and guest refund policy, into its rental platform. And yet there are still horror stories including provocative squatters refusing to leave a house and parties causing tens of thousands of dollars in damages. These will only intensify when users rent more than one room.
With Trips, Airbnb finds itself head-to-head with industries almost as powerful – and in some places more – powerful than the hospitality industry. It will be hard to compete with sites like TripAdvisor and Travelocity, and the countless shops locals have spent years creating. This is uncharted territory for what was once a nascent but remarkable startup in the sharing economy. And whether that will be enough to take Airbnb to new heights, and out of the grip of its legal issues, it will depend on its ability to convince people to afford and sell themselves and their services, and not just their own. houses.