Will Airbnb Change Tourism As We Know It?

Jennifer Docherty

2016-11-21 12:13:00

If we never challenge ourselves to think beyond the norm, then our industry will not survive


There has been a lot of talk and speculation about what Airbnb have been up to recently. The only thing we knew for sure was that they were developing their business model and were going to be realising something new and exciting.

Well, the news is out and there are some radical changes to their business - and maybe to the tourism industry as a whole!

Airbnb no longer just offer accommodation, but have expanded into ‘Homes, Experiences and Places’, wanting to give the traveller the ultimate local experience.

This involves being able to visit places that are recommended by locals (anything from a restaurant to a hairdresser) and also the chance to book an experience designed and led by locals. Essentially, the locals are becoming the guides and hosting more than just their homes.

Experiential tourism is a trend that has been rising as people have been changing the way that they travel. It is no longer enough to just visit a place - they want to fully engage with the cultures, the locals, the attractions and have an immersive experience. This is actually a topic we discussed in our most recent Digital Tourism Show.

Airbnb have once again challenged how the tourism industry thinks. Is there a better way to be a tourist without being a “tourist”?

This is an interesting concept. It was touched upon by Brad Webber (Gray Line) at the SFBO event in London last week. People no longer want to be seen as “tourists” as this word has become synonymous with your stereotypical camera-in-hand, socks-and-sandal-clad type of person.

There is a new way of exploring a place and this is where Airbnb are hoping to make their mark. Eradicating the need for tour guides, they plan to have locals show people the best places to go and get the chance to ‘live like a local’.

There’s no doubt that there are some great things about this new update. They have thought about what people really want and have tried to reimagine how we experience places - something that every business in the tourism industry should be trying to do anyway! If we never challenge ourselves to think beyond the norm, then our industry will not survive.

But will this affect other tourism businesses in a positive or negative way?

Airbnb revolutionised travel accommodation, with a whole new way of thinking about visiting new places. It’s proven to be a popular concept as more and more people make use of the budget-friendly service— so will this new take on experiences and trips be the same?

The first thing to remember is this new method has not yet been tried and tested. Tourism companies have been moving towards experiential tourism anyway, this will just be a further reason to challenge how yourself on how you operate and ensure that you are always adapting to your customers’ needs.

Large and successful companies, such as Airbnb, can be intimidating to small tour operators if they feel they cannot compete. However, bear in mind that different people want different things. It is up to you to give your customer what they want - you know them better than anybody. What can you do that nobody else can? Find your niche and do it well. If you continue to evolve there will always be a place in the market for something different.

We’d love to hear your input, how do you think this will affect your business and the industry in general?

Read more in-depth about Airbnb’s new services.

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