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Airbnb is turning itself into an ‘experience’ machine beyond just booking places to stay

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Airbnb is looking to move beyond the simple experience of booking a place to stay — moving part of the responsibility of figuring out what to do in those places to Airbnb and its hosts instead.

That’s the goal of the company’s new ‘experiences’ feature in the Airbnb app. In addition to booking places to stay, hosts and locals can offer different tours, events and other things along those lines. The goal, CEO Brian Chesky said onstage at an event, was to give travelers guidance on what they are supposed to do when they finally get there. This has been in the works for a while. As of June, the service appeared as a beta.

For Airbnb, at a company level, this gives the company another way to give a layer of interaction with the travel experience. That gives it a way to monetize additional parts of the experience, which could help it continue to grow into a more full-fledged company. While traditionally competing with hotel companies like Marriott, Airbnb can move beyond just being a booking and stay service into something more.

If you’ve traveled — domestically or, in particular, abroad — the process of figuring out what to do can be paralyzing at times. “Go see this museum,” or, “you have to try the food,” can be incredibly vague and generalizations of the overall experience. Airbnb wants to focus those down into more targeted recommendations for things to do.

Airbnb users can basically craft these experiences — which in the app are displayed through a sort of carousel of cinematic posters — and sell them. Most of the experiences cost under $200, Chesky said. The experiences show a kind of preview for them before users end up booking them. Example experiences could be walking tours or lessons in astronomy in the area, the company demoed on stage.

This, also, gives hosts the ability to make money beyond just booking their homes — or even in lieu of that. With the gig economy increasingly growing, this is a new way for locals who are experts in the area and good at building experiences a way to generate some additional cash on the side.

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Airbnb, beyond that, seems to be trying to capture the complete trip experience down to booking reservations at restaurant. Users can also browse their previous trips, as well. When anything is booked, the reservation goes into an itinerary — places, experiences or meet-ups for example — and users can basically check their phone as to what to do next while they’re traveling.

Getting beyond just the booking experience is going to be doubly important for Airbnb as it continues to face increasing pressure from regulators. Last month, Airbnb sued the city of New York over legislation that would make it illegal to advertise accommodations that can’t legally be rented out for less than 30 days.

That could help it, in the end, not grow into its $30 billion valuation, but help it continue to grow beyond that. It gives it a way to expand the overall scope of the company to one where it not only competes with hotels, but also control the fate of the tourism agency in general.

The changes are currently live, Chesky said. The company is starting in 12 cities.

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