Airbnb, which has built itself into a USD 25 billion operation with a presence in 34,000 cities globally, is looking to diversify from room and house sharing into the field of authentic, personalised travel.
“We’re thinking beyond accommodation”, Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk confirmed. The company is looking at pairing hosts and guests for tours and other activities like playing sport, he told the BBC.
Blecharczyk said people wanted personal connections while travelling, as was shown by their willingness to stay in the homes of strangers.
“What we’ve demonstrated is there’s an immense appetite to travel more authentically and immerse yourself in culture… as opposed to having a commoditised experience,” Blecharczyk, the company’s chief technology officer, told the BBC.
Airbnb advertises its service as “experience a place like you live there”.
In another step in that direction, Airbnb launched a project called One Less Stranger to encourage its hosts (there are more than 1 million) to meet and engage with new people.
Airbnb set aside USD 1 million for its project to turn strangers into friends, and invited 100,000 of its hosts to spend USD 10 in a personal, creative way to engage with their local community. They had to carry out a random act of kindness and use the hashtag #onelessstranger.
Blecharczyk said hosts wanted to participate more in guests’ experiences, even something as simple as going for a bike ride on their favourite bike route.
“Connecting with real people having a good time” was not currently provided by “the professionalised world of hospitality” he said.
Written by Peter Needham