Skift Take

Today’s edition of Skift’s daily podcast looks closer at Airbnb’s Experiences pullback, the impact of the silent traveler, and the glamour and practicality of European night trains.

Series: Skift Daily Briefing

Skift Daily Briefing Podcast

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Good morning from Skift. It’s Monday, April 17. Here’s what you need to know about the business of travel today.

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Episode Notes

Skift Research projected in 2014 that so-called silent travelers — consumers who resorted to their mobile devices first to find solutions to problems — would significantly alter the travel industry. Has that been the case? Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden reports that mobile-first consumers have indeed changed travel in many ways.

Jorden lists some of the shifts travel brands have made to meet the desires of the growing market. Frontier Airlines decided in November 2022 to eliminate its call center and instead provide customers online, mobile and text support via a chatbot. A company spokesperson said most customers prefer communicating via digital channels. Skift had argued nearly a decade ago that silent travelers would increasingly turn to mobile tech rather than the traditional in-person customer service staff that travel companies traditionally relied on.  

Hotels have also been impacted by the rise of silent travelers. Paris-based hotel group Accor started enabling guests to check in up to two days before arrival using its mobile app. The company said it unveiled those check-in features to adapt to travelers’ growing mobile habits. Jorden notes a 2017 study found that hotels incorporating apps into a guest stay saw higher visitor satisfaction. 

Next, Airbnb recently confirmed that it paused offering new experiences, or tours and activities, without indicating any plans to relaunch them. The company has also removed them from its homepage, raising serious questions about its long-term strategy for its experiences offerings, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy.

Airbnb said it was halting new experiences offerings to focus on other services. The short-term rental giant hasn’t admitted what went wrong after its 2022 relaunch of its experiences following a pandemic-era pause. Baidi Li, a spokesperson at tours and activities provider Go City, said Airbnb’s decision was a sensible move. At the same time, Li questioned Airbnb’s approach to the sector, describing experiences provided by its hosts as passion projects.  

Brophy quotes one Airbnb host who believes the company will eliminate its experiences offerings due to their absence on its homepage. However,  

Dan Wasiolek, an analyst at financial services firm Morningstar, said Airbnb pausing offering new experiences doesn’t mean it won’t continue to invest in the sector. 

Finally, higher airfares are helping drive more business travelers in Europe to opt for trains instead of planes, reports Corporate Travel Editor Matthew Parsons. 

Parsons cites corporate travel agency CWT as one company that’s seen a surge in rail bookings. The agency estimates that 70 percent of domestic business travel is by rail. Parsons adds the push to reduce carbon emissions is also contributing to business travelers increasingly embracing trains. Saad Berrada, CEO of French travel management platform Fairjungle, said more consumers are looking for low-carbon alternatives to air travel.


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Tags: airbnb, corporate travel, silent traveler, skift podcast, tours and activities, Travel Experiences

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