Skift Take

Let's do some math, first: How do you calculate 20x growth when you're not given a baseline for comparison? Our guess is whatever that adds up to, it may not be very much.

Exactly one year after Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky announced the official debut of Airbnb Trips, the company is heralding the product as a success and noting some emerging trends in the types of tours and activities that its users are booking via Airbnb.

The company said that since the launch, the number of Experiences — Airbnb uses the term to describe shorter, non-multi-day, peer-to-peer-led activities — has grown dramatically to more than 3,100 in 40 cities across 26 countries. Airbnb Trips also includes Immersions, which are longer, often multi-day, tours and activities.

Last year, the company launched Trips with just 12 destinations and has increased that number to 40 so far this year. Next year, the company plans to add Trips in markets that include Costa Rica, Hawaii, Melbourne, Buenos Aires, Bali, Hong Kong, and Jamaica.

From January to November, the company also said the number of total weekly Experience guests has “increased 20x,” although they did not give exact numbers. Airbnb said guests, on average, pay $55 each per booking.

“October was our strongest month yet for Experiences bookings,” the company also noted in a statement.

Emerging Trends in Airbnb Experiences

The company also divulged data about what types of Airbnb Experiences are the most popular, and who is booking them. Twenty-nine percent of bookings, it said, fall into the food and drink category, including homestyle dinners, specialty cooking lessons, and guided food and drink tours. The other most popular categories for Airbnb Experiences were the arts (14 percent); sports (10 percent); lifestyle (9 percent); nature (9 percent); music (9 percent); and entertainment (7 percent).

When Airbnb Trips first launched last year, the uniqueness of its offerings — think DJ lesson or art studio deep dive — was one of the major selling points for this new business. However, this latest data does quietly suggest that as the product has evolved within the past year, more guests are choosing to book tours and activities that fall under relatively more conventional categories such as food and drink and the arts.

The most popular Airbnb Experiences booked within the last 30 days included a walk to the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, a humor-filled tour of the Louvre in Paris, a food tour of Lisbon, a visit to a family vineyard in Rome, a tour of graffiti art in New York, and a market-to-meal tour in Tokyo.

The majority of Airbnb users (two-thirds) who have booked Experiences are age 35 or younger. Airbnb also said that 90 percent of all Experiences have earned a five-star review.

Appealing to Solo Travelers and Locals

The company also noted that while most Experiences bookings are made by groups, it has noted that solo travelers are more adventurous in their choices of activities versus groups of two or more. Airbnb said, “We found that guests flying solo are more drawn to social, sporty activities like a pickup soccer game or a groovy yoga session, while groups of two or more prefer dining and cooking outings.”

Another growing demographic of Airbnb Trips audience is one that isn’t necessarily the most likely: locals. At the Skift Global Forum in New York in September, Airbnb co-founder and chief strategy officer Nathan Blecharczyk said that a growing number of people booking Airbnb Experiences were not just travelers.

“There are a considerable number of people booking Experiences who are locals,” he said, saying the number was somewhere in the “low double digits of percentages.”

He said that this trend further supports Airbnb’s goal of “trying to help outsiders feel like insiders.” He continued, saying, “We want to connect them [travelers] to what’s happening in a city. And we’re finding this is just as relevant to local people as well. As our platform has more and more different types of offerings … it could be something more of a regular use or daily app used by local people, long-term.”

No doubt the addition of Trips, as well as Airbnb’s recent integration of Resy-powered restaurant reservations, also support the company’s ambitions of being more than just a travel company.

The No. 1 market for Airbnb Experiences is Barcelona, followed by Los Angeles, Paris, Tokyo and San Francisco. New York City, which expanded its Experiences in September to all five boroughs, is the sixth most popular market worldwide and the No. 1 fastest growing city according to booking data from the past 90 days.

Scaling Up Airbnb Trips, Experiences with an Eye Toward Quality

During his interview at the Skift Global Forum, Blecharczyk emphasized the success of Airbnb Trips, saying, “it’s already working” and that “it’s taken off.”

However, some analysts and industry experts suspect that the majority of Airbnb’s revenues still come from its primary core business — homes — and they wonder just how much money the company is generating from this newly launched business. Whatever the amount actually is, many believe whatever Airbnb is making from Airbnb Trips comprises a relatively small portion of its revenues, which reportedly totaled $1 billion in the third quarter of 2017.

As Airbnb builds its tours and activities business, however, it’s doing so in a much more thoughtful and deliberate manner, as Skift noted earlier this year when it interviewed seven different Airbnb Trips hosts about their experiences.

Blecharczyk said the company is “focused on quality” when it comes to Airbnb Trips, and that while the company has had “tens of thousands of people apply to offer Experiences, only 3,000 were approved.”

“We’re putting a lot more effort into up-front screening, if only to shape what the brand of this product is,” he said, adding that the company wants to ensure that these Experiences are “not just a superficial offering.”

Blecharczyk also said the company is offering training to Airbnb Trips hosts, and he said that there have been some hosts who have made $100,000 or more this year alone, just from offering Experiences.

Focusing More on the In-Destination Experience

Unrelated to Airbnb’s Trips product but somewhat connected to the company’s investment into the in-destination experience for travelers and locals alike is a recent pilot the company launched, called Airbnb Travel Stories. It allows Airbnb users to upload and share their own short videos of their travels, somewhat similar to how Snapchat or Instagram Stories works.

An Airbnb spokesperson said the company had no information to share about the pilot at this time. But from what we’ve seen so far, Airbnb Travel Stories will be yet another way for the company to boost its “Places” content which contains travel tips and information from hosts, guests, celebrities, and insiders (often presented as Guidebooks), as well as information about local events, in a highly curated, editorial way.

These new videos uploaded directly from users can also be used to market and advertise Airbnb Trips, too. When Trips first launched last year, Airbnb produced short films for many of its inaugural Experiences and Immersions, something that former Airbnb head of global hospitality Chip Conley, who now serves as a strategic advisor for hospitality and leadership to Airbnb, said was a crucial component.

In November 2016, Conley said: “[We] know that video is more and more important on the Internet. It’s going to be more and more important for us for Trips and Experiences. Why wouldn’t it not be for other things as well? That’s about as much as I can say. The video component: There are going to be people saying, ‘Okay, so how do we apply that? Video is really hard.'”

The growth of platforms such as Instagram Stories and WhatsApp Status are proof that consumers are using these types of social media to share content with their friends — so why not extend that to the entire Airbnb community as well? Instagram Stories and WhatsApp Status, for example, both have 300 million daily active users. Snapchat, the originator of the short-video social network, has an estimated 173 million daily active users. Since Airbnb launched in 2008, the company has amassed more than 200 million guest arrivals.


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Tags: airbnb, tours and activities

Photo credit: A promotional image for an Airbnb Experience in New York City called "Taste Latin flavors in Queens." Airbnb says its most popular Airbnb Experiences are related to food and drink, and New York is its fastest growing market for its tours and activities business. Airbnb

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