Airbnb targets curious travelers as ‘experiences’ expands to 200 U.S. cities

Airbnb showed it’s not all about short-term rentals just over a year ago when it launched Trips for travelers interested in seeking out unique experiences and events while on the road.

With the initiative apparently working well for the New York-based outfit, Airbnb has announced it’s investing $5 million in expanding the experiences element of Trips to include 200 cities in the United States.

In Airbnb’s own words, the feature enables “small business owners, new entrepreneurs and community nonprofits to create immersive experiences for travelers.”

These can include anything “from a podcast production lesson in Chicago, to honey making in the Santa Monica Mountains, and a bike tour through LA with a landscape architect … the options are never-ending.”

The company said it now offers 4,000 experiences globally, with 1,000 of those taking place in the U.S. The expansion in the coming months means many more are on the way.

Growing its services beyond its core business appears to be paying off for Airbnb, which said that since launching experiences in 2016, global weekly guest bookings have risen by more than 2,000 percent year-on-year, while the number of experiences has increased by 500 percent.

Airbnb points out that although a lot of its experiences are offered by small business owners and entrepreneurs, others are given by local nonprofits who put the proceeds back into their organizations.

It offers the example of Vy, one of Airbnb’s “Social Impact experience” hosts located in Harlem, New York City. Keen to share her passion for gospel, jazz, and rhythm, Vy founded the Mama Foundation of the Arts.

“Her foundation preserves this art form for current and future generations, [and] provides quality training and employment in the performing arts to both youths and adults,” Airbnb said.

Vy’s Airbnb experience involves an informal chat (with wine and other refreshments) about gospel music and why it’s so important to Harlem. This is followed by what Vy promises is “a rare peek” into an award-winning choir’s rehearsal where guests are “encouraged to cheer and sing along before enjoying a jubilant mini-concert.” All the more jubilant for the imbibed wine, no doubt.

Airbnb explains that 100 percent of guest payments go back to the Mama Foundation of the Arts, “allowing Vy to grow her foundation while educating travelers about Harlem and the gospel music that has long been integral to the community.”

To explore the full range of options offered by Airbnb, check out its experiences web page, where you can input particular cities to refine your search.

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