SAN FRANCISCO — Airbnb has just unveiled the most significant development in its eight-year history as it moves beyond accommodation with the launch of ‘Trips’. Officially launched yesterday, ‘Trips’ includes three key areas: Experiences, Places & Homes, with ‘Flights & Services’ to be added in the future.
‘Experiences’ are handcrafted activities designed and led by local experts, be it a single activity like a Samurai Swordplay workshop or an immersive multi-day experience like learning about and driving classic cars in Malibu. ‘Trips’ launches with approximately 500 Experiences in 12 cities worldwide: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Detroit, Havana, London, Paris, Florence, Nairobi, Cape Town, Tokyo and Seoul. As of yesterday, budding hosts in these and an additional 39 cities worldwide can request to list their Experience.
‘Places’ aims to bring to life the cities of people who live there, reflecting the recommendations of hundreds of thousands of Airbnb hosts. With Insider Guidebooks, Airbnb has identified cultural experts and neighbourhood insiders to recommend hidden gems within their city. A total of 100 Insider Guidebooks are available in six cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Havana, Nairobi, Detroit and Seoul, with more coming soon.
In addition to Insider Guidebooks, ‘Places’ includes over one million individual recommendations worldwide from Airbnb’s home hosts. The company is partnering with online booking app Resy to let travellers make restaurant reservations through Airbnb – in competition with services like OpenTable and Yelp.
Airbnb has also struck an exclusive partnership with Detour to offer access to experiential audio walking tours. At launch, adio tours will initially be available for Los Angeles, with San Francisco, Paris, London, Tokyo and Seoul to follow by Spring 2017.
Also new to the table is ‘Trip Itinerary’, a feature that brings together everything the traveller needs to know into one simple timeline, with the ability to easily book and add Experiences or things to do. Airbnb’s vision is to ultimately cater for every aspect of a trip, including flights. In an interview, CEO Brian Chesky said he hopes to add more services, including the ability to book airline flights.
The launch of Trips also sees the introduction of a new identity authentication process that the Airbnb Experiences Community will be using. Hosts and guests will be asked to scan an official government ID (for example a passport, or driving license) and then take a simple selfie. After the ID is authenticated, the ID and selfie will be reviewed to confirm that both pictures appear to match. Having a more robust standard of authenticating identity will make the Airbnb community stronger and reaffirms Airbnb’s ongoing commitment to authenticity, reliability, and security. This new identity authentication step is required for all Experiences users, and is also currently being tested for homes bookings.
Since the company launched in 2008, when the co-founders invited travellers to sleep on an air mattress in their San Francisco loft, Airbnb has grown to be one of the world’s most valuable private startups by collecting fees when private hosts rent out accommodations listed on the site. It’s raised $3.9 billion from investors, according to CB Insights, which tracks venture funding.
Chesky declined to say if the company is profitable, although the Wall Street Journal reported last year that Airbnb was spending heavily to expand in more cities. The newspaper cited internal projections that forecast Airbnb to have nearly $1 billion in revenue last year and to become profitable by 2020.
With file from The Associated Press