Airbnb isn’t just for rentals anymore. During the company’s Airbnb Open conference in Los Angeles Thursday, CEO Brian Chesky unveiled an ambitious plan to turn the company into an all-encompassing travel company.
The first step of that plan? A new feature called Trips, which helps travelers find more immersive experiences in the places they visit.
The flagship piece of Trips is something called “experiences,” which matches travelers with locals who offer guided activities in their area that can last a few hours or a few days. Meant to be more than the usual tourist attractions and sightseeing tours, the promise is that travelers can visit places and have experiences that would otherwise be unavailable to them.
This is also a radical change for the company in that it opens up a new opportunity for people who don’t host guests in their homes to participate and make money off the platform.
Currently, there are about 500 experiences live in the app in 12 cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Detroit, Havana, London, Paris, Florence, Nairobi, Cape Town, Tokyo and Seoul. You can browse these experiences the same way you would browse accommodations.
Experiences fall into two main buckets: multi-day excursions (think surfing and camping in LA or a three-day cheese trip through Paris) and hours-long experiences (a nighttime photography lesson in Seoul or a craft cocktail class in San Francisco.)
Airbnb VP of Product Mike Curtis says there isn’t one thing that makes an experience and that more “obvious” tourist activities aren’t off the table so long as the experiences help people “connect” with the place they’re in.
“We want to make sure it’s something that helps travelers connect to the destination they’re staying in. We’re looking for things where it can be centered around a passion or a neighborhood, something that really helps travelers immerse in the experience of staying in the place that they are,” Curtis tells Mashable.
Many of the experiences are on the pricier side, but there are also cheaper options in each city as well. (Curtis says 50 percent of the experiences are less than $200.)
As with Airbnb’s rentals, the hosts set their own prices and those who book get to review the experience when they’re finished. Curtis declined to say what Airbnb’s cut of an experience is but said it’s a “similar model” to how bookings work on the platform already.
One of the most intriguing aspects of experiences though is that you can now use Airbnb to connect with travelers and make extra cash from them even if you don’t share your home with them.
The process for signing up to host experiences, though, is a bit different than simply listing your apartment on the site. For now, each experience is vetted by Airbnb staff Curtis says he expects the process to take about a week who will decide whether the experience meets their standards for quality, safety and other factors.
Hosts who live in other cities where experiences aren’t yet available can register their interest in the feature, which will help the company determine where it expands to next.
For now, experiences is still somewhat of a gamble: it won’t be profitable for Airbnb or its hosts unless many people participate in the excursions. Still, Airbnb is banking it will pay off as the company looks to become more of a one-stop travel shop.