Strangers are just friends you haven’t kayaked in Sydney with yet. At least that’s Airbnb’s philosophy. In a follow-up to their revolutionary home-sharing service, the company recently launched Experiences, a service that connects travelers with locals to try unique activities. From baking bread in Paris to crafting clothes in Nairobi, Experiences offer new ways to see a city.
The activities aren’t all rooted in skills or hobbies, though. Experiences can be as simple as meeting locals for dinner in a hidden neighborhood spot or vintage shopping with an antiques expert.
The service builds on Airbnb’s understanding that younger generations are eschewing travel amenities like four-star hotels and professional tour guides in favor of raw, community-based experiences. In fact, Experiences hosting standards explicitly state “It’s important that you don’t think of yourself as a tour guide. You’re a host who’s helping travellers experience a city in a meaningful way.”
The feature offers more than 1,400 specially designed experiences in more than 25 cities around the world. Activities range in cost and length, from as short as one activity over two hours for $20 to pricier, multi-day adventures, which are dubbed “Immersions.”
How to Book an Experience
Navigate to the Experiences section of the website or app and select a city to see what’s offered. Like Airbnb home rentals, each Experience has ratings, reviews, images, and a map. Some even include a video teaser. You can also see how many spots are left and how many other people are viewing the same Experience to gauge how long you have to pull the trigger.
What give Experiences their authenticity are the hosts, who custom design the itineraries. Popular Experiences are hosted by people like Los Angeles surfer, Quinn the Adventure Man, and Cape Town cookbook chefs, Nikki and Brandon. It also means there’s limited availability, so don’t be surprised to see a small number of available dates to choose from.
How to Become an Experience Host
Looking to expand their footprint, Airbnb is seeking hosts in big cities all over the world. If you want to share your community, make new friends, spread awareness around a cause, or just start a side hustle for the weekend, create your own Experience on Airbnb.
Per Airbnb’s guidelines, you only need to be credible, genuine, and empathetic to guest’s needs and feelings. They’re looking for hosts that offer a personal experience participants wouldn’t find elsewhere.
You can plan a day full of activities, hone in on a hobby, or develop an Immersion over multiple days. The Experience categories are all-encompassing, with choices like entertainment, wellness, and nature. You can also partner with a nonprofit or charity to host a social impact Experience.
Group sizes start as small as one and max out at ten, and you can either provide and arrange everything, or list requirements for guests. Similar to Airbnb’s other services, you create your schedule, you manage your bookings, and you set the price – with a 20% cut going to Airbnb. If you already have an Airbnb profile, the site will pull in your existing info.
So, next time you explore a new city, you can come back with staid stories of your gondola ride in Venice — or you can make new friends and memories paddle boarding with penguins in Cape Town.
Disclosure: Airbnb is not affiliated with Western Union. If you book an Experience yourself, Airbnb will never ask you to pay the cost of a reservation off-site or through email. Off-site (i.e., payments via services like Western Union) or cash payments are a violation of Airbnb's Terms of Service, and can result in removal from Airbnb. Airbnb prohibits off-site payments because paying outside of Airbnb makes it harder for Airbnb to protect your information and puts you at a greater risk of fraud and other security issues.
If a host on the Airbnb site asks you to pay off-site, report it to Airbnb by flagging the message—just look for the flag icon in your message thread.