News & Opinion | March 21, 2017 9:00 am

Can Marriott Offer You a Better ‘Experience’ Than Airbnb?

Depends. Do you like helicopter tours?

Looks like Airbnb’s big bet on “experiences” is paying off — at least in the form of competitors channeling the same vibe. For proof, consider Marriott, which announced its investment in PlacePass, a Massachusetts start-up specializing in selling tours and activities around the world: Now you can book those vineyard tours alongside your king suite. 

PlacePass is usable enough. Ask it to provide options for, say, Cape Town and it’ll spit back over 400 activities ranging from a $74 full-day tour of the Cape peninsula to a $300 helicopter tour of the Atlantic coast. For Tokyo, you can attend a “robot evening cabaret show” or a Japanese food tour by night. It’s comprehensive, not spectacular — the advantage of going to PlacePass over Viator or Get Your Guide is simply the fact that PlacePass collects activities from both those sites and others. 

The investment suggests that Marriott thinks you’ll be more motivated to book with them if you can organize your activities at the same time. Maybe that’s true — but we wonder if many travelers’ desire for unique or “authentic” experiences will be frustrated with a grab-all collection like PlacePass. (Airbnb harped on the singular quality of its experiences when it launched the initiative in November.)

Time will tell.