Airbnb, the site that lets individuals rent out their homes to tourists, has announced a host of new services which represents the company’s most significant shift to date. It is launching tours and immersive trips in a dozen cities as it aims to become an all-inclusive travel platform. Brian Chesky, chief executive, told the Financial Times, “We realised we needed to create a holistic experience, for the whole trip” and that he expected these new services to account for most of Airbnb’s revenue in the long run. Airbnb will soon offer features such as booking flights, renting cars and making restaurant reservations.
The first step of the expansion will be guided tours, called ‘Trips’. Essentially, this will allow local citizens to offer their knowledge, experience, work or even simply their social life – for a price. For instance, Airbnb Trips will offer a guided tour of Nelson Mandela’s prison cell from a man who was a prison warden tasked with keeping watch over the leader. The company will also offer ‘Experiences’ such as concerts and audio tours. Mr Chesky emphasised that this won’t be a “free for all”. Instead, Airbnb is taking a highly-curated approach to ensure that the experiences are safe and enjoyable.
The move into guided tours and travel services will open up a huge new market for the company, which had approximately $900 million in revenue last year from its accommodation business alone. Airbnb has grown rapidly since it was founded eight years ago and it has raised more than $4 billion by issuing equity and debt from investors including General Atlantic, Alphabet and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. The company was valued at $30 billion in its latest round, making it one of the most valuable start-ups in Silicon Valley.