You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Airbnb moves from host to tour guide

AAP logoAAP 18/11/2016 Katina Curtis

Travel is about to get a lot more personal.

Airbnb has unveiled its biggest expansion since it was founded in 2008, moving beyond accommodation to offer travellers curated experiences and personal recommendations.

The services - available via Airbnb's updated smartphone app - let locals act as tour guides to share their city and passions.

Chief executive Brian Chesky says the company started talking two years ago about how to make people's entire travel experience better.

"For many people travel's easy but it's not natural. If you want to have an amazing trip, you end up basically on a research project," he told the launch of Airbnb Trips in Los Angeles on Thursday (local time).

"You're in line, you're lonely, you're an outsider, you're often doing things locals would never do."

The new experiences give travellers the chance to do anything from a few hours learning to fight with Samurai swords to spending three days learning how to take and print photos of shooting stars, or discovering the history of Nelson Mandela's imprisonment from his guard and cook.

"These aren't tours, you actually participate, you immerse and you join the local communities," Mr Chesky said.

And for hosts: "If you have a passion, if you have an interest, or if you have a hobby, you can share it, your community, with others in the world."

Guests can also choose to give something back to the community they're visiting by helping a non-profit. Airbnb is also working with Make-A-Wish to help one child each day realise their dream.

Airbnb's experiences and places have launched in 12 cities around the world and will expand to 50 locations in 2017.

The offerings will include Sydney and New Zealand's Queenstown and people in these cities can now apply to host an experience.

Half of the launch set of 500 experiences cost less than $200 per person.

The places offerings include insider guidebooks, audio tours and meet-ups.

Mr Chesky also used the launch to hint at what's to come as the multi-billion dollar company expands even further into the travel space: flights, car rentals, grocery deliveries and services.

But he insists everything the company does will continue to be powered by regular people and their local, insider knowledge.

"A lot of technology companies tend to talk about the magic being in the technology, making things really easy," he said.

"But the magic is, always was and always will be in the people.

"Travel has never really been about where you go but it's about who you can become."

* The writer travelled to Los Angeles as a guest of Airbnb.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon