Generally, aside from the chance to stay in digs you’d never normally have a hope in hell of affording or simply finding a budget, self-catering option, it’s the people-powered nature of accommodation listings website Airbnb that many feel offers something over and above staying in a hotel.
Whether making new friends, nabbing a table in an awesome local eatery off the tourist track or making some extra cash out of your spare room, its appeal for both hosts and users has been undeniable: there’s now more than 3 million homes on its books in 191 countries, from spare rooms and mansions to treehouses and houseboats.
But not content with overhauling where we stay while on holiday, the company is hoping to change how we decide what we do while we’re there too, rolling out its biggest change to date with Airbnb Trips.
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Revealed by CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky at the Airbnb Open conference in LA, the major update gives users the opportunity to create a full holiday experience beyond the room you stay in – ranging from a few hours to multi-day trips and expert guides from locals. And it’s also a chance for people to become City Hosts and monetise a passion, talent or hobby.
Interested? Read on for everything you need to know about Airbnb Trips.
What is it?
Airbnb are reaching out into all areas of travel, essentially providing the option to create an entire holiday with Airbnb Trips. Users so inclined can book experiences and activities as well as their accommodation, and the company plans to roll out other services in the future, such as flights, restaurant bookings and pre-ordering groceries to your temporary home.
How does it work?
There are new headers: Homes, Experiences and Places.
Homes is where you’ll find the accommodation listings as before, while Experiences is where you’ll find tours, trips, classes, workshops and, well, experiences from City Hosts. They’re organised by city and passion – from a few hours in your chosen destination to immersive multi-day options. You can click into each option to read more about it or watch a trailer.
Clicking into Places meanwhile brings up a wealth of ‘insider’ guides; recommendations from locals on your interests, be that food, music, art (pretty much anything).
Places is also where you’ll find Audio Walks (audio city tours by locals), MeetUps (to find out who else is going to that food fair on Saturday for instance) and Nearby Now (a standard ‘what’s near me’ GPS feature bringing up host-recommended venues).
How is it different to normal city tours or reading a guide book?
Speaking in LA, Chesky argues that where guide books might tell you what travellers and tourists do, Airbnb Trips is designed to let you in on local secrets that interest you, whether that’s food, music, shopping, sports, wellness, art, history and any number of other passions, from the general to the very specific.
For instance, one city tour might be hosted by a local grime artist, while another is a three-day experience with the man who was Nelson Mandela’s prison guard and cook for 27 years. Another might be a few days with a renowned photographer learning how to capture perfect images of the stars, from framing to post-production, or spending time with a costume designer.
The options really are many and varied, from learning Korean embroidery or magic tricks, to truffle-hunting in Tuscany, to off-road bike tracks in LA, to learning about 50s and 60s history.
With Places, a list of local eateries might be curated by a cookbook author, or one example in Havana is a guide to the best live music joints put together by a local jazz pianist and composer.
It could be argued that in terms of recommendations, we could get the same information from family and friends as we always have, but if you don’t know anyone familiar with your destination, that’s where this comes in – something that Airbnb has always touted as a selling point.
There’s perhaps also a point to be made about hidden gems no longer being hidden gems once publicised, though the ‘I knew it before it was famous’ problem has always existed and spans pretty much any forum. You’re also getting that host’s personal interest so venues won’t always be to everyone’s taste: one man’s hidden gem is another man’s wouldn’t-go-if-you-paid-me dive.
It also depends what kind of traveller you are as to how much you’ll get out of Airbnb Trips: there’s no way of monetising the experience of stumbling across something amazing by accident and it won’t suit everyone. But if you’re in a new city and at a loss as to where to start, this is the formal equivalent of meeting a random in bar who tells you about some gig in a living room you should try and get into.
Where will it be on offer?
It’s currently in 12 cities: Cape Town, Detroit, Florence, Havana, London, Los Angeles, Miami, Nairobi, Paris, San Francisco, Seoul and Tokyo. There are plans to add 50 more in 2017.
When can I start booking?
The new features are live now – you may have to update your app.
Can I still use Airbnb as before?
Accomodation only can still be booked via the Homes tab.
Can I offer my services?
The company says anyone can apply to offer something based on their particular passions or hobbies. Visit the website here.
Your trip is collated into one timeline, so you can easily see whether you have time to fit in activities, when and where your restaurant booking is etc.
On the homepage you’ll also see Social Impact Experiences, where 100% of the booking price goes to the non-profits hosting the experiences.
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There are plans to add Flights and Services tabs, enabling the likes of restaurant bookings, car rental and grocery-ordering without leaving the app.
Images: Amy Swales / iStock