Airbnb has introduced Trips—a way for travelers to purchase experiences beyond just a place to sleep. During the Airbnb Open on Thursday, company co-founder, Brian Chesky, likened travel to Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey.” Every story has an origin, crosses a threshold and the hero is transformed by a challenge before returning to their starting point. This inspired the concept of not just a destination, but a journey that transforms the person—so Airbnb decided to provide that adventure.
Chesky unveiled a new version of the Airbnb app that includes not just homes and places but a newly-added Experiences feature. The promotional video used examples of people riding on dirt bikes, running and even learning to become a burlesque dancer.
“We’ve designed this to be both magical and easy,” Chesky said during the reveal. Experiences are divided into two groups, both designed to immerse a traveler into the local community. “Immersions” are multi-day experiences filled with activities while “single” experiences can include tours, etc. for just a few hours at a time. Users can choose an Experience based on passion, like food, dancing or photography. Half of the experiences are priced under $200, but all of them are presented like a film or old-fashioned travel poster. In fact, each experience comes with its own trailer to add the storytelling element. In addition, 10 percent of experiences are offered by non-profit organizations, who receive 100 percent of the trip proceeds.
A major focus of the Airbnb is not just having fun, but the importance of knowledge that is shared among guests. Even its Places option is sorted not by reviews, but reviewers—offering personal recommendations from the local area from where to eat to the best dancing hall. In one Experience, Nelson Mandela’s prison guard offers a tour of the prison in which he stayed and relates how Mandela changed his life. In another, a Korean woman teaches the art of intricate embroidery—a skill all but lost to machine production. Each experience includes not only interaction with his/her guest, but the opportunity to learn something new by participation. These new Experiences are available now starting in Detroit, London, Paris, Nairobi, Havana, San Francisco, Cape Town, Florence, Miami, Seoul, Tokyo and Los Angeles.
Future app features will include airfare, services and food, adding eCommerce to the mix. As the world enters an era of virtual reality, automation and artificial intelligence, however, Airbnb is making humans a priority. “Everything we do and everything we will do will be powered by people,” Chesky said. “The magic was, is and always will be in the people.”