Maybe they just got tired of all the lawsuits.
Speaking at the annual Airbnb Open in Los Angeles today, co-founder Brian Chesky announced a slew of new ways to use the platform: the company now wants to own every part of your next vacation (not just your lodging), from pre-trip scouting (via its new local authority-authored guides) to dinner reservations (powered by Resy) to the part where you meet and occasionally enjoy the company of strangers (heretofore replacing meetup.com).
Among the initiatives:
The most intensively rumored-about service: “Experiences.” Airbnb likes to call them full-day and multi-day “immersions.” (“These aren’t tours,” Chesky said. Most people would call them tours.) Examples previewed in Chesky’s demo included a tour — er, immersion — of Robben Island with “Jack … Nelson Mandela’s prison guard and cook for 27 years” and photography workshops with an L.A.-based astro-photographer.
Presumably, as the range of offerings grow, they won’t all achieve this caliber of interest and access — we’d bet we’ll see a fair few versions of “Five Bars Within Walking Distance of My Apartment.” Chesky said half of the immersions available at launch would be under $200, half over, and at launch, they’re active in 12 cities: San Francisco, Cape Town, Detroit, Paris, Nairobi, Havana, Florence, Miami, Seoul, Tokyo and Los Angeles.
“Places” gets a full-on expansion from the minimalist neighborhood guides currently on the site with a range of locally minded guides penned by residents, all inspired by Chesky’s belief that guidebooks are full of suggestions for things locals would not actually want to do. In other words: “Put down that Lonely Planet so our contributor/unemployed actor can tell you where to see salsa in Havana!” Hey: we’ve got an amateur president now, so maybe amateur travel guide writers aren’t literally the worst thing in the world. Guides are currently available in six cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Havana, Nairobi, Detroit and Seoul.
Dinner reservations powered by Resy, which maybe you’re already using. We say: the easier it is to book a meal — especially overseas, where language barriers are an issue — the better.
One of the add-ons we like most is how Airbnb will now generate an itinerary of all your holiday activites — booking, meals, “immersions,” etc. This does seem handy, even if Chesky exaggerated ever-so-slightly when he complained that nowadays “you can spend as much time planning your trip as on your trip.” Sure, consolidation is convenient for users … but it’s terrific for startup billionaires on whose site you’re consolidating all that trip planning.
Also within Places: audio guides created by Detour, which is great if you’ve found it too much of a hassle to type d-e-t-o-u-r-.-c-o-m.
And a “meetup” option that sounds indistinguishable from meetup.com, already leading the market on introducing you to strangers you probably-don’t-but-very-well-may-occasionally want to sleep with.
Also, a Foursquare-like tool offering a map of cool places nearby.
In short: Airbnb wants to be your one-stop-shop for every aspect of your next trip because it thinks you’re too time-strapped/unfocused/lazy to plan and too glued to your Facebook page to meet people on the road.
Are they right?
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