When a company’s brand name enters the public lexicon as a verb (“Just Facebook me …”), it’s a clear sign they’ve made it big. Among hardcore travelers, Airbnb succeeded in doing just that a few years ago (“We Airbnb’d for a month in Prague …”). Now, they’re further cementing their status as a whale in the travel space with Airbnb Experiences.
Online tour booking services are nothing new — the concept has existed almost since the first Internet cat meme. But, Airbnb set out to do so something distinctly different from the thousands of me-too online tour aggregators. Their Experiences service works directly with local, entrepreneurial hosts to provide travelers with the most memorable, bucket-list-worthy excursions. The length of each experience depends on the host and the particular activity offered. One-day experiences last only a few hours, while full-on immersions often last days.
For travelers, there’s no better way to find the pulse of a culture than to cook, hike, paint, or surf with a local. But, most experiences aren’t just vaguely interesting activities hosted by a stranger. They’re hyper-niche, guided immersions into a shared, singularly focused creative or adventurous passion. Los Angeles’ Smog City Brewing, for example, invites travelers to join them inside their taproom as a “brewer for a day” for just USD $45. Elsewhere in L.A., Marvin’s Backyard Beekeeping shows guests everything they need to know to start their own apiary. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, you can even write a TV episode with a professional TV writer ($199) or camp with wolves under the stars ($625).
From the host’s perspective, Airbnb Experiences provides a creative outlet to share their (sometimes curious) passions with like-minded strangers. London millinery designer, Sarah, for example, will teach you all about her fancy hat-making expertise. Some experiences are just about sharing time with a local, however. Naky, a Togolese immigrant living in Portugal, takes travelers on a four-hour tour of Lisbon to explore the city and its thriving African subculture through the eyes of an immigrant.
Most tourists land in a destination and try to connect with the local culture through guided tours, old buildings, and travel guides. Airbnb’s CEO, Brian Chesky, noted that it’s difficult to fully appreciate a culture by visiting a museum and staring at “art by dead people … Why not learn how to make art yourself, taught by a living artist in that culture and immerse yourself in the artist’s world? These are experiences you can bring back with you!” It’s hard to disagree.
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