Last week, Airbnb rocked the industry once again with its big reveal of Trips – a new platform that allows travellers to add experiences to their trip on the go. So what does it mean for the industry?
Don’t think tours offered by familiar operators. These are experiences “designed and led by chefs, street artists, and sumo champs”, according to Airbnb.
“We want every trip you take to feel magical,” the industry disruptor said.
“So you no longer have to follow the maps, wait in the lines, and take photos of all the same sights.
“Now, you can access unique experiences, incredible homes, and local favourites — all from one app.”
The offering will kick off with 500 activities across 12 cities: London, Miami, Nairobi, Havana, Florence, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Detroit, Seoul, Paris and Cape Town. A further 39 cities will soon join the fun.
The new product appears to be catering to the growing desire among travellers to experience the authentic and the unique. These days, people want to get under the skin of a destination, to do things that nobody else has done, to brag via social media, to raise the bar for adventure.
And with the company already worth an estimated $30 billion, branching out into a new area creates the opportunity for Airbnb to continue growing as it faces regulatory issues in a number of markets.
For years, the travel industry has debated the demise of bricks and mortar agents at the hands of online retailers, but now those “traditional” OTAs are also under threat. By offering a full-suite of products with an authentic, immersive twist, can it overtake the likes of Expedia and Webjet?
It’s undoubtedly exciting stuff but the general manager of Intrepid’s Urban Adventures Tony Carne points out that this is “not really a new concept”.
“Many have tried but not many have stayed the course,” he writes in an opinion piece on LinkedIn. The difference is that Airbnb has the advantage of an immense audience and systems that can easily adapt to the new products – but that ease brings with it a new question.
“If replication is really that simple, then can it really be called innovation?” Carne questions.
Nonetheless, he was optimistic about Airbnb’s chances and of positive impact on the industry as a whole, predicting a “great ride”.
“They won’t fail here,” Carne said.
“Like they have with apartment and home stay accommodation they will bring the interesting neighbourhood experiences into the mainstream and turn on the demand.”
However, founder and chief executive of vacation rental management technology firm Vreasy Martin Picard foresees a more complex state-of-play.
“The most interesting aspect will be the enormous battles that will ensue when an army of Airbnb uncertified & unofficial masseurs, hairdressers, chefs, guides etc come up against the old establishment of legal certified service providers,” he commented.
“It will be a whole new world of deregulation and crowd sourced vs certified providers. The previous legal mountains climbed by Uber and Airbnb will pale in comparison.”
He has a point. If ensuring rental accommodation adheres to local edicts has proved a minefield for the company, then this looks likely to be no different. After all, tour guides are required to have special licenses in many parts of the world.
But if Airbnb can get around that, then the sky really is the limit. With the addition of flights, car rentals and even groceries along with a rumoured IPO on the horizon, the travel industry will be watching with bated breath.
What do you think of Airbnb’s latest offering?
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