Airbnb is taking on the tourism industry with an ambitious expansion and a star-studded launch but it comes at a delicate time for the company
Airbnb is taking on the tourism industry by offering travellers excursions and experiences hosted by locals, an ambitious expansion which will allow people to plan entire trips through the home-sharing site.
The redesigned app works for a dozen cities, including London, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Paris, Tokyo and Nairobi, and will spread to dozens more next year, and eventually thousands, the company said on Thursday.
Offerings include stargazing, surfing, embroidering, food tasting, truffle hunting, burlesque dance lessons, mountain biking, samurai-sword classes and murder-mystery tours.
Brian Chesky, the companys CEO, made the announcement at the start of Airbnb Open, a three-day gathering of employees, hosts and celebrities in Los Angeles. If you want to travel, you basically end up on a research project, Chesky said. We want to fix this.
It will create a holistic travel experience, said Chesky. This is not a tour. You participate. You are immersed … this is literally just the beginning.
The announcement came at a delicate time for Airbnb. The colossus, valued at $30bn, is eyeing a stock market debut but a rising tide of regulation and concern about the companys impact on property markets threatens to stall breakneck growth. It currently boasts 3m property listings in 191 countries.
Critics say that instead of ordinary people renting out spare rooms in a benign cultural and financial exchange, many hosts are commercial operators who fuel rent rises, evictions and gentrification a reality Airbnb allegedly blurs by withholding and massaging data.
New York last month passed a law to fine residents who rent out apartments for illegal short-term stays. San Francisco makes hosts register and can fine Airbnb for listing an unregistered property.
The next big battle is in LA, where the city council will soon debate whether to toughen rules.
A coalition of tenants, community activists, labour leaders and business allies is due to rally outside the companys jamboree this week to try to engage hosts and pressure city authorities.
We are very concerned at how short term rents are perverting our housing market and raising our rents, said James Elmendorf, of the advocacy group Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (Laane). So we are out there educating Airbnb hosts about their responsibilities so theyre not just hearing from the company.
Airbnbs expansion into tours and experiences will open multiple new fronts for authorities around the world who are still wrestling with how to tax and regulate its short term rentals.
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