Beyond rooms and homes: Airbnb adding tours and activities
SAN FRANCISCO: Not content with just renting out spare rooms and vacant homes, Airbnb is adding local tours and activities like surfing lessons and pub crawls to its travel services in major cities around the world. With the new features announced Thursday, the fast-growing online rental company is hoping to tap into leisure travelers’ desire for distinctive “experiences” that make them feel more connected with the places they visit, travel industry analysts say.
The move also shows the ambitions of a company that’s already one of the world’s fastest-growing privately held firms. Airbnb, which boasts millions of rental listings around the world, has been valued at $30 billion - though it’s run into growing pains in some cities where local officials complain the boom in short-term rentals is reducing long-term housing for residents.
Airbnb’s new guided activities include things like surfing lessons or cooking class led by a local chef, a pub crawl through a trendy nightclub district or even a truffle hunt in Tuscany. The company has been testing the services in a few cities over the last year, enlisting local hosts as guides. It’s expanding to 12 cities, while promising 50 by next year. “They want to be viewed as more of a travel company and not just an alternative lodging firm,” said Henry Harteveldt, an analyst with Atmosphere Research. “Our research shows travelers spend as much as 60 percent of their travel budget at their destination. So they want to tap into that very large revenue stream.”