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Airbnb is moving into the tours and activities – some think in a very big way.

Airbnb is moving into the tours and activities – some think in a very big way.

Source: tnooz

The company has been talking about it a lot recently, not least at a conference I attended.

Whilst many gushed and appeared in awe, it gave a really great opportunity to hear, instantly and first-hand the reactions of others and how they think it might affect my own business.

NB: This is an analysis by Tony Carne, general manager for Urban Adventures.

The reactions fell broadly into two camps.

Reaction One: Ouch. You must be worried that Airbnb is moving in on your turf?

Reality:

Are you kidding?

The cool kid of the travel industry has just announced that the direction its creative and intelligent workforce want to take next, on its mission of transforming hospitality as we know it, is by creating the perfect travel experience by marrying staying and its style of accommodation and doing our style of tours that are both hyper-local and hosted by a local.

I don’t think the sector – and us – could get better validation than that on the path we are taking. We are not worried and we are not surprised but we are definitely pleased.

I think the other point people who had this opinion were missing is that Airbnb is the thought leader and poster child of the sharing economy.

I don’t think that is a position it would likely give up for the sake of being able to have a few tours to add on to its accommodation offer.

Airbnb is, after all, an open marketplace business which is what the share economy’s starting point is.

Right now, I guess it is figuring out exactly what its customer wants and maybe figuring out how to properly scale this offering, as mused on by TechCrunch, but ultimately I don’t think it would move away from the open market place and share economy principles in a field where there is no need to do so.

Maybe a bit more difficult as airline – but tours, no problems.

Airbnb’s leadership position has massive, hard-won PR benefits, infinitely more valuable than what a fledgling tour business is likely to bring.

Whilst we’ve seen the P2P field of tours and activities littered with pivots and dead pools, there are plenty of other locals who are professional who can provide awesome experiences that fit with the Airbnb ethos.

Marketplaces ultimately let their users work out the wheat from the chaff.

Reviews and customer satisfaction are a place I know we and others excel. So, worried? No – quite the opposite. Bring on the rising tide.

Reaction Two: Maybe Airbnb will make you an offer to achieve scale quickly?

Reality:

I don’t think so.

I don’t think Airbnb needs to acquire its way to scale here. It could open a marketplace tomorrow and pretty quickly (if it wanted) have the product range of a Viator or GetYourGuide (who themselves are marketplaces of professional tour businesses).

Airbnb has 1.3 million people in properties each night. That is a decent amount of people, the majority of whom you would think would be looking for something to do.

That is a pretty great starting point which, added to its brand value, could have it up to speed pretty quickly in the sector.

In the end, it would all come down to whether it wanted that product to be proprietary.

I think that would be highly unlikely based on experience in accommodation. It doesn’t ask the accommodation community to refrain from listing on Homeaway or Flipkey, and in many of places.

Airbnb likes to have different and better photos, for example, so that the online content is better presented via the Airbnb marketplace (and to make disintermediation more difficult) and a similar model is most likely to follow in tours and activities.

Reviews and images are the key.

However, should it want to have proprietary product, which is how it is certainly starting out in this test, then we know from our own journey that has taken us to 139 destinations and 89 countries, it is going to be slower than it thinks if it wants to guarantee that the quality is always high.

That is how it works in the closed marketplace.

It takes the building and evolving of systems, training and protocols to get so many different individuals all pulling in the same direction at a consistently high quality. If that is the route Airbnb goes down, then it is back to where we were in year two.

Either way, we look forward to great experiences working their way back to the top of the main reason that people are excited about travelling.

NB: This is an analysis by Tony Carne, general manager for Urban Adventures.

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