Two-and-a-half years after debuting Airbnb Experiences, Airbnb is putting itself into direct competition with traditional tour operators with the launch of a multiday tour service called Airbnb Adventures.
In its announcement Thursday about the expansion of its single-day tours, Airbnb Experiences, the company pointed to examples of Airbnb Adventures, including a three-day trip tracking lions with Samburu warriors in Kenya ($515 per person); a six-day Slow Food Safari in the Galapagos ($3,500); a five-day Mystical Oman Trek ($1,000), and camping on a cliff overnight in Colorado ($1,000).
These tours do not include flights.
In contrast to single-day Experiences, most of the multiday Airbnb Adventures are run by local tour operators.
“Adventure itineraries hosted on the platform are either entirely exclusive to Airbnb or provided by local operators that are not typically found on any other major booking platform,” an Airbnb spokeswoman said.
At launch Airbnb said it has more than 200 tours available. Local hosts arrange and control each tour, including the itinerary, accommodations, the services they provide, and the price. Airbnb said it worked with the Adventure Travel Trade Association on safety issues and best practices for the tours.
As is its habit Airbnb is running Airbnb Adventures in its own way to a great extent. The hosts responsible for the tours are individuals or local operators rather than well-recognized brands. Hosts of Airbnb Adventures include “Nabeel,” a tour guide who’s certified by the Oman Ministry of Tourism; Slow Food Galapagos, described as a grassroots organization geared to preserve local culture, and “Dustin,” “TJ” and “Kyle,” of the Kent Mountain Adventure Center in Colorado, for example.
Plenty of Competition
While Airbnb’s single-day activities put it in competition with online tour aggregators such as TripAdvisor, GetYourGuide, Klook, and tons of local operators, Airbnb Adventures faces off against traditional tour operators like G Adventures, Contiki, Collette, Intrepid Travel, Topdeck Travel, Trafalgar, and Uniworld, and online travel agencies such as TourRadar.
Dan Christian, chief digital officer of The Travel Corporation, offered some skepticism about Airbnb Adventures.
“In order to run and sell tours properly they should be licensed by the U.S. Tour Operators Association, and they will have the same issue as their current experiences (day tours), which is that small local operators can’t scale and offer the same value, peace of mind, and consistent high-quality branded experiences that are key to the continued success of trusted and seasoned tour operators such as our Trafalgar, Contiki, and Insight Vacations,” Christian said.
He added: “We appreciate that Airbnb has recognized the multiday opportunity, and we finally look forward to the larger online travel agencies recognizing what an exciting opportunity of expanding distribution with well-recognized global brands.”
Many of the traditional operators take much of their bookings offline because of the complexity of the trips. On the other hand, all communications and bookings for Airbnb Adventures take place online through the Airbnb platform, although the company doesn’t get involved in booking participants’ flights or making any pre- or post-tour arrangements.
Scaling the multiday excursions could be a challenge for Airbnb because it would appear to involve a relatively manual process.
Getting Ready for Stock Exchange Debut?
Still Airbnb has managed to grow its tours and activities business, having officially launched with around 500 in 2016, fairly rapidly. It now counts some 30,000 activities globally. The number of people booked to participate in an Airbnb experience increased nearly sevenfold in 2018 compared with its first full year, according to Airbnb.
A ticket for an Airbnb multiday adventure ranges from $79 for a one-day trip to $5,000 for a 10-day tour, the company said. The median price for these expeditions, which are limited to a dozen people each, is $588 for a 3-day excursion, Airbnb said.
Airbnb Adventures is another example of the company diversifying its revenue beyond homes and apartments as it gears up for an expected initial public offering. Earlier this week Airbnb published an advertisement for a director of investor relations, another signal that a potential initial public offering is in its plans.
Whether Airbnb Experiences and the new Airbnb Adventures will be profit centers for the company remain to be seen, and the financials of the venture will likely be detailed during the process of going public. In the early days of Experiences, Airbnb reportedly experienced significant losses.
This story has been updated to reflect a comment from an Airbnb spokeswoman that that many of the tours include exclusive inventory but many are run by local operators.