You Can Now Book Guided Tours And Local Meetups On Airbnb, Too

Airbnb just expanded its home-sharing network into a peer-to-peer marketplace for local activities, guided tours, and restaurant reservations in 12 cities.

With Airbnb's new service, Trips, even people who don't have a bed or room or home to rent can offer services like local tours or home-cooked meals to travelers — for a fee.

CEO Brian Chesky announced the news Thursday morning at Airbnb Open, its annual hosting conference, which attracted more than 7,000 people and had a tech conference-meets-Coachella vibe.

"You can spend as much time planning your trip as on your trip," Chesky said on stage at the LA's Orpheum Theater. "We want to fix this, We don't think there should be a trade-off. We think travel can be magical and easy."

Starting today in 12 cities — Detroit, London, Paris, Nairobi, Havana, San Francisco, Cape Town, Florence, Miami, Seoul, Tokyo, and LA — Airbnb's offerings will be divided into three categories: homes, experiences, and places.

"Homes" is what Airbnb has offered all along: short-term rentals. What's new is "experiences" — "handcrafted activities designed and led by local experts" — and "places" — a resource clearinghouse with in-depth guidebooks, self-guided audio tours, and information on local meetups. For example, a trip to Nairobi could now include a reservation at a local cafe made or a meetup with other travelers at a local bar made through the "Places" tab, and a lesson in cleaning a cookstove (an "experience"), in addition to a place to stay — all booked without leaving Airbnb.

Experiences are advertised like films, with movie posters and video trailers. Half of these "immersive" experiences, often three-day itineraries, cost less than $200, Chesky said. For example, a three-day photography experience that involves a studio tour and snack on one day, a photoshoot and dinner the next day, and post-production lesson with tea costs $199, and can be booked instantly. A single-day "experience" might be a show, an afternoon shopping at a marketplace with a food anthropologist or, for $31 dollars in LA, a living-room concert by local artists. The company has set a target that 10% of the experiences be aimed at social partnerships, with proceeds going to local nonprofits, not Airbnb.

Hosts can apply today to lead experiences in 51 cities globally, and even guests who aren't staying in an Airbnb can book them.

Chesky was clear to differentiate the Airbnb experiences from more typical tours. "You immerse," he said. "You join the local communities."

"Places," meanwhile, offers online guidebooks, with tips for local dining, music, and more that are curated by locals, but travelers can undertake on their own.

Airbnb also announced an audio-tour partnership with Detour, maps that highlight local favorites based on where you've booked, and a partnership with Resy that will allow guests to book tables at local restaurants without leaving the Airbnb app. Those partnerships are live now in the launch cities; Chesky said Airbnb is working on partnerships with other services, including airlines, in the near future.

"If you have a passion, if you have an interest, or if you have a hobby, you can share your community with others in the world, because travel has never really been about where you go, it's about who you can become," Chesky said. "And this is something that we would love to be able to build together."

Chesky didn’t address on stage the question of who’s responsible if your guided river tour kayak springs a leak, or if the home-cooked meal you booked makes you queasy. Whether these entrepreneurial locals will be regulated as small business owners or allowed to operate as free agents remains to be seen. A press release distributed after Chesky's talk says "eligible Experience hosts" do have the option of a new $1 million liability insurance program. But like so much of Airbnb's regulatory situation, it's likely the answer will be decided by local authorities on a city-by-city basis.

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