Is this "pause" a precursor to something new from Airbnb, or is it a realization that it may not ever become a large enough category for the company?
In an about-face, Airbnb has put all new experiences submissions on hold, with no date set for new experiences applications to resume, Skift has learned.
An Airbnb spokesperson confirmed to Skift the short-term rental company was pausing its Airbnb Experiences offering, “as part of our focus on perfecting the core service.” This pause of new submissions does not impact existing Experiences.
“As travel continues to recover from the pandemic and guests look to spend more on experiences again, the unique opportunity to connect through Airbnb Experiences is more important than ever. As part of our focus on perfecting the core service, including Airbnb Experiences, we are pausing submissions of all new Experiences. We are excited about the future of Airbnb Experiences and expect to provide more information in the coming months,” Airbnb said in a statement.
Airbnb only recently resumed its Experiences offering in 2022, after it was put on hold during the beginning of Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. The sudden pause comes despite Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky stating the company would be developing its travel experiences for the growing number of people working from home. Chesky outlined his ongoing vision for experiences during an on-stage interview with Skift founder and CEO Rafat Ali at the Skift Global Forum last year.
In Airbnb’s IPO paperwork published in November 2020, the company estimated the experiences opportunity to be almost as large as short-term stays and valued at some $1.4 trillion.
The company detailed the substantial market opportunity in the growing travel market and experience economy stating, “We estimate our serviceable addressable market (“SAM”) today to be $1.5 trillion, including $1.2 trillion for short-term stays and $239 billion for experiences. We estimate our total addressable market (“TAM”) to be $3.4 trillion, including $1.8 trillion for short-term stays, $210 billion for long-term stays, and $1.4 trillion for experiences.”
Strategically, Airbnb outlined experiences as an extension of its Airbnb host community in that “Hosts can share their skills and passions. Airbnb Experiences allow our hosts to not only share their homes with guests, but also their skills and passions by offering authentic activities in over 1,000 cities around the world. “
Chesky underscored this sense of connection during his Skift Global Forum discussion when he said the “travel industry is poised to enter a golden age, with workers glued to computer screens eager to seek new experiences from traveling. He believes roughly half of U.S. workers could eventually work from home, and that these employees are looking to get out of the house and make human connections.”
Add to this, Chesky hinted in a tweet earlier in March that a redesign of the Airbnb homepage was in the pipeline, raising speculation as to whether it would bring in some form of voice-driven search — as travel companies experiment with the possibilities of Generative AI. The company has previously spur innovation with a redesign of traditional travel search.
Skift contacted Airbnb to confirm the pause after receiving a screengrab of one of Airbnb’s community center manager’s reply to a host’s query about his recent experience submission.
The community manager, based in Toronto, Canada, responded to a host inquiry, “Currently, we are working hard to improve our core services and are temporarily pausing all-new Experiences submissions.
“Although we do not have specific dates of when it will be resumed, as of now, both new and existing hosts will be unable to create an Experience.
“Thank you for sharing your concerns with us! We will keep the experience Hosts updated once the intake resumes.”
According to a source known to Skift, Airbnb outsources its community management to a UK-based company called Standing on Giants, said to specialize in building brand-owned communities.
Moderation of the Airbnb Community Centre is said to include direct communication from Airbnb for certain queries, specifically such as those pertaining to delayed payments and, in this instance most likely, new experience submissions.
Airbnb Experiences is so central to Airbnb’s mission that instead of reporting room nights sold in quarterly earnings reports, as other online travel companies do, Airbnb discloses nights and experiences booked.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to include a tweet and reference to a possible redesign of Airbnb’s homepage in 2023.
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Photo credit: Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky (left) spoke with Skift founder Rafat Ali at Skift Global Forum in Manhattan September 21, 2022. Source: Skift