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Stuck indoors? Airbnb launches virtual travel experiences

Airbnb is taking its “Experiences” service online.

With so many people now living in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Airbnb has decided to suspend face-to-face Experiences until at least the end of April, putting many of them online instead.

Running alongside its accommodation service since 2016, Airbnb Experiences offers guests a chance to try a bunch of different activities while they’re on their travels, including everything from cooking lessons and music concerts to meditation guides and magic lessons.

The decision to shift Experiences to the web gives people stuck at home more options for things to do during their downtime, while at the same time enabling the experience providers to keep on earning.

“Human connection is at the core of what we do,” said Catherine Powell, head of Airbnb Experiences. “With so many people needing to stay indoors to protect their health, we want to provide an opportunity for our hosts to connect with our global community of guests in the only way possible right now, online.”

The sessions will use video conferencing software Zoom. Bookings are currently available for more than 50 virtual Airbnb Experiences, with “thousands” more set to be added to its website in the coming months, the company said.

A quick look at the current listings reveals a diverse range of offerings starting at just $4, among them a Portuguese tapas class, a “hidden houseboat” concert, a gentle yoga and slow life coaching class, a virtual visit to an animal sanctuary in the Catskill Mountains of New York, and an event with the intriguing title of “roller skating dance party.” Probably best to put any valuable items well out of the way for that one.

Airbnb has also partnered with a number of local organizations around the world to curate experiences that tailored toward older residents, enabling them to learn a new skill while they stay home to protect their health.

Airbnb, like all companies in the travel industry, has been hit hard by the fallout from the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19. Recent data showed that cancellations have skyrocketed while new bookings have tanked since the outbreak took hold, prompting the company to consider how it can keep parts of its business going — for example through this latest initiative.

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