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What Airbnb's new changes mean for the future of tour & activity companies

Posted by Sara Napier Burkhard on Nov 18, 2016

With the rise in popularity of DIY travel experiences, it should come as no surprise that Airbnb became a huge success almost overnight. It should then be even less surprising that the hospitality giant would continue its momentum. But, will lightning strike twice with this popular business model?

Yesterday at Airbnb's Open conference in Los Angeles, the accommodation superstar announced their new venture: Trips

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Labeled under the category of Experiences, the company aims to help offer more than just a place to stay for the night. They want to get a hold of what travelers do during the hours away from their temporary homes.  

As we've discussed before, travelers have been trending in the direction of independence. Gone are the days of calling up a travel agent for every trip we want to take. Airbnb's new Experiences feature is trying to ensure that the traveler of tomorrow becomes the traveler of today. So what does this mean for tour and activity companies? 

When Airbnb unveiled its original accommodation model, many hospitality businesses took notice. Today, we can emulate those footsteps. As you know, change is inevitable and the trends will come and go with each new season. This is an opportunity to get ahead of the competition. 

1. Learn from Airbnb

This new development could be an incredible opportunity for your company. Keeping to the effect that Airbnb had on hotels, you may find something to learn from the way their Trips go. Just as the boutique hotel industry rearranged to accommodate the changing needs of tourists, this new marketplace can help tour and activity companies improve their offers as well.

Visit the Airbnb website and look through the catalogue of activities. Take note of how the offers are packaged and what you can learn from similar and more popular Experiences. By studying these local trends, you'll have the insight to market your business more effectively and attract more customers. 

What it means for you: Rather than treating this new development as a threat, acknowledge what you can learn from it. Consider this a valuable research source that helps bring awareness to the trends of tourists locally. Then think critically about how you can market your company more efficiently.

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2. Money Matters

As you know, when it comes to travelers, money talks. After quality experiences, finances are a key factor in most tourism decisions. Given that Airbnb can be 20-50% less expensive than a hotel stay, their customer base is often budget-conscious. Factors like location will come into that as well, and the same can be said of the new Experiences features.

Offering a place to stay and a full-course meal with several experiences, for example, will likely add up for the host. This means the cost to the customer might be comparable or even higher than a similar experience they could receive from an established activity and accommodation provider.

What it means for you: The competition will exist, but it doesn't necessarily mean you will lose. Continue to offer unique, innovative and memorable experiences and treat Airbnb Experiences the same as any other local competitor. By offering economical packages, promos and discount rates, you can easily appeal to the traveler on a budget.

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3. Experts do it best

Airbnb also posed great uncertainty to the hotel and hospitality industry in 2008 when the company was founded. Today, great lodging options not only still exist, they thrive as experts in their field. 

The key may be that many Airbnb hosts see the site as an opportunity for passive income. While offering lodging is a bit simpler and less of a time constraint, Trips and Experiences might be harder to fit into a host's schedule. Furthermore, Airbnb Experiences tend to focus more on the single guide and activity side of the tourism market, not DMOs or DMCs

While this announcement definitely means there will be more competition and variety in the activity sector, it doesn't mean that experts have become obsolete. Naturally, the feature will be worth a try for many travelers but it can't replace the need of proven experts in their field.

What it means for you: The old adage stands: be yourself, but be your best self. If you keep focus on your business and how it can improve, customers will certainly notice and continue to come to you. From gastronomy tours to multi-day ski trips, you are the expert of the craft.   

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So, will lightning strike twice for Airbnb? Only time will tell. 

What matters now is what your business is doing to stay relevant and ready for what tourism looks like today. 

If there's one major thing to take away from this, it's that the modern traveler desires independence and convenience. If your business is not already accessible online, you're missing out on one of the most important marketplaces of all time. A good website and proper booking software are key, now more than ever.

We're here to help bring customers to your business. That's why we're constantly updating our library of research for tour and activity companies looking to offer unique experiences to their customer base. We want to help you build the best tours possible and have already done so for companies in over 130 countries.

Let us help you set the stage so you can continue to offer the most magical experiences for your customers. 

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Sara Napier Burkhard

Written by Sara Napier Burkhard

Sara is a writer from the American West Coast. In recent years, she's written for companies like Hipmunk, iTourMobile and Mylikes. She now resides in Zurich, Switzerland where she finds new adventures and attempts to speak German with minimal success.

Topics: Tourism trends

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