By launching Trips, Airbnb hopes to capture every step of the travel process
OVER the past year, cities around the world have begun to crack down on illegal Airbnb listings, threatening the home-rental firm’s seemingly unstoppable expansion. As regulation bites in some of its most important markets, so Airbnb is looking for new ways to grow.
Last week, the company announced the launch of Trips, a service through which locals can offer guided tours and other experiences to travellers. It will start modestly, offering 500 things to do across 12 cities: London, Miami, Nairobi, Havana, Florence, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Detroit, Seoul, Paris and Cape Town. These include activities like “violin making in Paris or marathon running in Kenya”, according to the site. An additional 39 cities will soon be added; experiences will range in cost from $30 to several hundred dollars for multi-day events.
That is only the start. Airbnb hopes ultimately to capture every step of the travel process. Eventually Trips will offer travellers the ability to rent cars, book flights and restaurants, and order groceries. At a time when both leisure and business travellers are increasingly choosing Airbnb over traditional hotels, the firm wants to offer a full-suite alternative to sites like Expedia and Kayak. It hopes its selling point of providing the “authentic” experience that comes with renting an Airbnb apartment—or, now, with booking a guided tour by locals—will help set it apart.
Airbnb calls the launch of Trips “the most significant development in its eight-year history”. The move comes amid rumors that firm is planning an IPO soon. The company hopes that investors worried about a crackdown on rentals in markets like New York will see expansion potential in Trips.
But there are risks, too. First, these new experiences could run into the same regulatory problems as apartment rentals. In New York and other cities, tour guides are required to have special licenses. If renting out homes in apparent violation of local ordinances has proved thorny, there’s no reason to expect these experiences to be any different.
And then there’s the question of Airbnb’s identity. The reason many customers choose it over traditional hotels isn’t necessarily price: Airbnb rentals are often just as expensive as hotel rooms of comparable quality and location. (And for business travellers, price is sometimes not a determining factor in any case.) Rather it is because they want to be far from the flocks of tourists on guided expeditions. If Airbnb attracts millions of travellers to its own tours and other experiences, it could end up undermining the very thing that has made it so attractive to travellers thus far.
This is from Nov 21st 2016, 15:37 by by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC