Airbnb, now 11-years old, is already worth $38 billion. For perspective, Hilton Hotels, now almost 100-years old, is worth $23 billion. Additionally, Airbnb does not own any property or host any experiences. So, how have they managed to achieve such great success? By harnessing the power of the travel experience.
According to Airbnb, what separates them from hotel chains, is their ability to leverage technology and economically empower people around the world to monetize their spaces, passions, and talents to become hospitality entrepreneurs.
Airbnb’s use of technology creates a seamless customer experience. Users can search, book and pay for stays, contact and review hosts, and book experiences, all through Airbnb’s website or app. According to CEO Magazine, this one step process is miles ahead of anything offered by conventional hoteliers and part of the reason people keep coming back to Airbnb. When I first used Airbnb, the technological ease of booking my stay was a breath of fresh air, and I have not booked a hotel for any vacation since. Additionally, the experience of staying in an Airbnb versus a traditional hotel is unmatched. I feel as though I am living amongst the locals and truly experiencing the area.
Recently, Airbnb has been rapidly building on their lodging foundation through programs like Airbnb Plus, Airbnb Luxe, and Airbnb Experiences.
Airbnb Plus, released in 2018, elevated the company’s lodging selection by curating an exclusive list of homes that are verified through in-person quality inspections. While they still offer standard amenities, the quality of the homes and hosts is elevated through this program.
Airbnb Luxe, released in 2019, took Airbnb Plus several steps further. The Luxe collection of homestays is designed for people who are willing to pay the highest premiums for the highest-end homes. Additionally, Airbnb Luxe connects users with a personal trip designer to craft a unique 5-star stay. This brand elevation is similar to that seen by Restoration Hardware.
Airbnb Experiences, also released in 2018, offers users access to over 40,000 activities run by local hosts. While Airbnb must approve the host and their selected experience, the activities are completely designed by the locals that sign up to host them. These experiences range from cooking classes, to city tours, to concerts, to bar crawls, and more.
I have personally been using Airbnb for lodging for the past three years, both within the US and abroad. When Airbnb released Experiences, I was quick to try several of them out on a trip to Paris. While Airbnb’s lodging does a good job of making me feel that I am fully immersed in the culture of an area wherever I travel, outings led by local guests sounded like they could only enrich the experience further. The experiences did not dissapoint. Whether it was a Louvre tour with an art student pursuing her PhD in art history, a wine tasting inside a woman’s local wine shop, or a bar crawl with two friends who wanted to spend the holidays meeting new people, each experience I went on was completely unique, and was clearly very important to the hosts.
It is the authenticity of the experiences that makes Airbnb such a successful community. Through its lodging services, hosts go out of their way to make their homes their guests’ homes with detailed local knowledge of the best eateries, transport links, and hidden gems. By creating Airbnb Experiences, the company built on this idea to curate and offer truly unique experiences outside of guests’ lodging locations and inside the local community.
As a marketing agency, we often site Airbnb as a great example of a brand that uses customer experience and personalized marketing to cultivate truly unique travel experiences. And as it turns out, many of our team members have also used Airbnb. AE Marketing Group CEO, Brian Walker, recently returned from a trip to Italy, during which he stayed in Airbnbs and participated in several experiences. It all made me wonder, what experiences would the people around me host in their respective cities?
Since the AE Marketing Group team spreads throughout the US, I decided to reach out and see what experience they would want to host in each of their cities. Here is what they had to say.
Jane Fischer, Media Planner
Milwaukee’s many neighborhoods showcase their European roots and influences making them a collective Midwest gem to be explored. My Airbnb Experience would start at Milwaukee Public Market where we would have lunch at St. Paul’s Fish Market. Best lobster roll sandwiches and bloody marys around. After lunch, I would walk through the Historic Third Ward to shop and take in the local flavor. Then grab a Lime and head to Pierhead Lighthouse on the beautiful shore of Lake Michigan to take in the scenery before a must-do brewery tour- Lakefront Brewery. I’d cap off the day at View MKE for dinner, drinks, and a dusk view of downtown.
Andreas Reshoft, Web Developer
One of the best things about living in Austin is the weather. However, with twins under the age of two, I don’t get out much as I’d like. My Airbnb experience would be to head about an hour outside of downtown Austin to hill country and Lake Travis. This area is beautiful and often overlooked by tourists. There are plenty of activities to do from hiking, fishing, kayaking and more.
Natalie Pyles, Brand Lab Series™ Podcast Producer
Salt Lake City, Utah
My hometown is Salt Lake City, Utah. Whenever I entertain friends and family from out of state, I take them to three spots in this beautiful valley, and these spots are exactly where I would host my Airbnb Experience. The first is Stansbury Island at the Great Salt Lake where the salty beaches blend in with the sky so it feels like heaven on earth. The second is the mountainside “Y” of Brigham Young University, a fun, 2-hour long hike with a gorgeous view. And the third is Temple Square to see the historic worship sites of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City is a veritable paradise for nature-lovers, photographers and historians.
Meredith Overmyer, Digital Marketing Consultant
One of my favorite things to do in Chicago is ride my bike. If I were to create an Airbnb Experience I would love to take them on a biking tour through Chicago. We’d start with a stop for iced coffee at Ipsento, then ride on the 606 trail for awhile and over to the lakeshore path.
Airbnb has created, and continues to innovate, an entirely new way to experience new locations and cultures. As the company continues to expand, the possibilities are seemingly endless for how Airbnb can deepen the travel experience.