Airbnb is coming out with a personalized tour program, designed for anyone who is in a new city and is looking for an uncommon experience.
Don’t you hate it when your travel guide or app in hand, and the places you go to turn out to be duds? The descriptions in those books seemed to make your activity worthwhile, but it turned out to be a massive waste of time and money.
Having a local perspective might have helped. That person would have told you that your tourist trap lost its appeal months or years ago. He or she might have suggested going to this other place instead, which you might have not known about because your resource didn’t mention how awesome it was.
Now you won’t have to look far for such a person, thanks to Airbnb. The short-term rental giant is now branching out into a City Hosts program in twelve cities around the globe, with more planned for the coming year. You can have a local take you around their city, with various scheduled activities along the way, lasting anywhere from a few hours to the whole day. Prices vary accordingly, from roughly $30 to $300 per person.
This service, while being only in beta mode and available to a small test group, appears to be a natural result of developing travel experiences that don’t follow convention. Instead of the old-fashioned itineraries that take a herd of tourists to this well-known place and that activity, these City Hosts find curated experiences highly characteristic of the destination.
For example, you can learn how to make your own ramen from master noodle chef in Tokyo, or take a seven-hour city art tour and party in Miami. It’s way more personal and interactive than what you would normally get in a typical tour.
City Hosts is part of a larger concept called Magical Trips, where Airbnb’s hosts develop guidebooks of their city and personalization features to their app. All of this is part of the not-quite year-old “Live There” campaign to make experiences more customized for travelers and suited to their needs and tastes. It’s become the hallmark of the travel brand and makes it a disruptor to the long-established hospitality and hotel industry.
Some of these companies are taking notice and embracing the personalization trend. Brands like Accor and SPG are giving more attention and options to their preferred customers, in some cases giving them access to “ambassadors” to help them with travel questions and issues.
Another point to consider is the feeling that some travelers prefer being around others. If you are on your own in a vacation rental, you will not as many opportunities for camaraderie if your host isn’t around, or if you don’t have a City Hosts itinerary planned. But maybe that’s how you want vacation to be, which is perfectly fine (it’s often how I like mine to be, most of the time). More hotels, however, are developing these community-oriented public spaces and even planned activities for their guests to approximate Airbnb’s programs.
These ideas from Airbnb appear to have “disruptor” written all over it. It’s become the way that people in general like to travel, not just millennials but also genXers and even some baby boomers. Fewer people want to do the traditional canned travel experience, where you hop on bus with a few dozen others, follow a guide and get off and on at a series of overly popular stops. They are looking for authentic, locally curated itineraries, customized to personal interests and tastes. City Hosts and Magical Trips appear to be filling that gap.
What do you think about Airbnb’s new programs? How could your travel brand create more personalized travel experiences for your customers? I’d love to know your thoughts.