Airbnb may never become a clone of its online travel agency competitors, but it will eventually go more mainstream to attract a wider range of travelers and locals, as the Tiqets investment suggests.
Airbnb led a $60 million investment round into Tiqets, a signal that the homesharing giant realizes that unique experiences only address the needs of a limited segment of travelers and locals.
With the Series C financing round, backed by existing investors HPE Growth Capital and Investion, Airbnb becomes a minority investor in Amsterdam-based Tiqets. Since its founding in 2014, Tiquets has raised total funding of $105.5 million, according to Crunchbase.
Tiqets, which tilts toward mainstream attractions from museums to iconic destinations such as the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island and the London Eye, said it will use the financing to widen its distribution, and improve its product for both consumers and attractions venues.
Airbnb prides itself on offering so-called unique experiences, ranging from a Hasidic rabbi’s walking tour of Brooklyn to Mezcal tastings in Mexico City, and a picnic and horseback ride in the bush near Mount Kenya.
But as the Tiqets investment suggests, Airbnb must realize that it is only addressing the needs of a limited segment of travelers with off-the-beaten track tours. Lots of tourists like to visit the Vatican, if they travel to Rome, for example.
Airbnb didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
That Airbnb would eventually become more of a conventional travel seller is no huge surprise — these kinds of things happen all the time.
For example, after TripAdvisor acquired tours and activities seller Viator in 2014, the first order of business was to broaden Viator’s offerings from a curated set of attractions to a much more expansive range of listings.
Booking.com in its early days focused almost exclusively on hotels, but eventually expanded into alternative accommodations, car rentals, tours and activities, and recently flights.
And even Airbnb, which initially focused on apartments, mostly in urban areas, has broadened out into vacation rentals in resort destinations, as well as boutique hotels with its acquisition earlier this year of HotelTonight.
Some things, such as Airbnb going more mainstream in both lodging and attractions, are not necessarily inevitable, but very likely.
This is especially true as Airbnb ponders becoming a public company in 2020, and will need to show the stock market that it has ample room for growth — beyond short-term rentals.
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Photo credit: Sunrise at Ellis Island in New York. Tiqets sells tours of the iconic destination. U.S. National Park Service