5 years ago

Airbnb moving in to tours and activities? An obvious strategy to continue its disruptive model

Airbnb, the most talked about travel startup of 2012, is taking a close look at adding local activities to run alongside the home booking service.

Some background, first of all…

Industry observers have already noticed the recent launch of the Neighborhood feature for several cities, where districts are explored with pictures and suggestions for what to see, do and eat.

Currently made of static information curated by Airbnb’s own staff, the content is inspiring, well designed and targeted to different lifestyle segments.

Neighborhood pages are provided as value-added information for visitors to the site and, of course, embed offers from hosts in each district.

The next step is to allow local hosts to provide their own tips about life in each district, therefore building a detailed and crowd-sourced city guide to find the best bakery or a free wifi café in the area.

Behind these moves is a more general strategy aimed at building a local services platform for guests and hosts.

Here is what is happening behind the scenes.

The platform would offer two types of services. On one side, in line with the idea of helping travellers discover life and culture, Airbnb would promote local flavour experiences like personal tour guides, food or activity specialists.

Conversely, in order to help both travellers and hosts, there would be a marketplace for logistic services such as check-in and check-out, housekeeping, transportation or food delivery.

It’s interesting to note that Airbnb describe its users as high-end travellers interested in experiencing local life, therefore is not looking for mass market bus tours or boat rides.

The goal – at this stage – is not to launch a new business around tours and activities, but to build more trust in the brand and increase apartment bookings.

But, one question is whether the company could try to clone the existing person-to-person model from apartments to tours. It’s easy to imagine that all existing hosts could become local guides, and all existing guests could require local guides in destination.

According to my information and sources, Airbnb does not believe in a large business being generated from P2P tours, mainly because of the low availability of free inventory (read: time) from users.

The intent of playing around with local activities at this stage remains focused on adding value to the core home booking platform.

In the long term, however, this strategy would bring Airbnb closer to the “unhotel” concept of OneFineStay, where clients stay in privately owned apartments but can still benefit from all the services of a traditional hotel.

It’s worth remembering what many of us have no doubt heard in recent years (I cannot count the number of people who have told me):

“If I can find something on Airbnb, I never use hotels”.

The hotel industry – and now others – should continue to watch this space very carefully.

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Daniele Beccari

About the Writer :: Daniele Beccari

Daniele Beccari is a contributor to tnooz, and head of travel products at Criteo.

As travel technology strategist, he has helped startups and blue-chip corporations define and launch innovative solutions in leisure, corporate, online and mobile sectors. He also served as Vice President, Europe and B2B, at Isango! (now part of TUI), and previously as head of corporate products for the e-travel division of Amadeus.

He started his career at HP, working on what is known today as the Internet of things. An MBA graduate from INSEAD, Daniele can be found somewhere between Paris, London, Turin, San Francisco or Tokyo.

Daniele's views are his alone and not the views of his clients or employers.



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  1. Lisa

    I am so excited about local tours and experiences market. I love the idea of seeing the city through the eyes of locals. I have tried this with a platform last year ( http://www.localguddy.com ) It was totally amazing. I will try airbnb as well.

  2. Clinton Park

    Curious what your sources are — this article doesn’t seem very substantiated. I mean, it’s easy to speculate, but you report it as if it’s fact, with no sources or evidence to back this up.

  3. Alex Bainbridge

    “It’s easy to imagine that all existing hosts could become local guides” << I am not so sure about this…. hosts don't really have to be present to make their home / flat / apartment available – but have to actually, in person, deliver a P2P T&A. So pretty sure that, at grand scale at least, that you can discount existing hosts becoming local guides.
    But hey, maybe people will point at this comment in 3 years time and go, Alex, you were SOOO wrong! 😉

    • Daniele Beccari

      Alex I’d agree with you, but there is one important dimension which could help starting a P2P tours marketplace: volume. A startup starting this from scratch will have to hang on long enough to be profitable. A solid player like AirBnB could build this as a side business and still survive on the core business.

      My understanding today is that AirBnB is not planning on creating a new business, but simply building something that reinforces the core value proposition of home rentals. Low risk to try, and if it ends up taking off… great.

    • Gillian Morris

      I’m not as skeptical as you! I’ve been using couchsurfing.com for years as a way to discover local-led tours for great prices – sometimes free, but often paid (a couchsurfer in Beijing organized daily trips to an obscure section of the Great Wall for below-market rates, a bedouin couchsurfing host in Jordan arranged a horseback tour for me in Wadi Rum, etc). Airbnb has already monetized the actual couchsurfing, I think it’s only a matter of time (and not much) before it moves into P2P T&A.

  4. Psycho

    It’s interesting fact that Vayable.com which specializes on local activities was funded by YCombinator (as Airbnb had been before). I guess, companies work closely together (as all YC companies do in fact). So, shall we see merger?
    Would be an interesting move for YC then.

    • Kirill Sermyagin

      I think it will be strange move for now – close relationship is nice but I think that for AirBnB better start from integration with 3rd party to test product and finally choose some industry leader and of course multilingual and multicountry company… maybe like Excursiopedia.com 🙂 By the way we always open for this kind of partnership.

      • Psycho

        Em, Kirill, guess, you clearly understand that if it would be an integration with 3rd party than again it will be Vayble.com – I’m almost sure in this.

        • Kirill Sermyagin

          Psycho, I think this can depend on language version and region… and anyway lets look at results of their current cooperation. May be somebody from AirBnB can post some comments here?

          • Fernando Rodriguez Merino

            I’m not convinced that Airbnb targets mostly high-end travelers, but more a young global audience, and also don’t think that P2P T&A would bring now more value or better brand trust to their model than more profitable and easy to implement bus tours, tickets and attractions. I agree with Kirill and they should explore a good partner to implement this business first.

  5. Andy Ryan

    “According to my information and sources, Airbnb does not believe in a large business being generated from P2P tours, mainly because of the low availability of free inventory (read: time) from users.” – I couldn’t agree more with this statement, and it’s refreshing to see this acknowledged for once.

    Monetizing a tangible and passive asset like a spare room or a car is completely different from monetizing time. LIkewise, valuing – and therefore creating an efficient marketplace around – that tangible asset is so much easier than doing the same for the occasional services of a non-professional. While I’d be nervous about this possible development at Airbnb if I were an online tour & activity marketplace (the list is endless and growing), I wouldn’t lose sleep if I were a professional guide or tour provider well established in my local travel landscape.

    • Stephen Joyce

      Stephen Joyce

      I agree with you Andy. Airbnb getting into P2P tours is, unfortunately, more noise in the marketplace for consumers. BTW, what does this mean for their partnership with Vayable?

      • Gillian Morris

        What do you make of AirBnb’s acquisition of Localmind (http://techcrunch.com/2012/12/13/airbnb-acquires-localmind/), announced last Wednesday? To me it seems like another step in the direction of developing local ‘experts’ who could very easily become tour operators.

        Secondly – I was an AirBnb host in Istanbul. My experience showing around guests led me to begin leading tours of Istanbul’s art galleries. It was an excellent way to spend a Saturday or Sunday doing what I probably would have done on my own anyway. It certainly didn’t hurt that I got to make some money and talk about something I’m passionate about at the same time. I know I’m just one example, but the idea of skill/expertise sharing for a fee seems to be catching on – Skillshare and Sidetour both seem to be growing in popularity.

        In sum, I think there is a huge market for P2P tours, that AirBnb is in a perfect position to enter it, and that it will be doing so imminently.

    • Kirill Sermyagin

      Andy, I fully agree with you – rent out apartment and spend your own time are really different things and not equal inventory for the same amount of suppliers.


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