How Airbnb reckons it can change the traveller experience

There has been a great deal of discussion around what the launch of Trips means for Airbnb… and for travel more broadly (if anything).

Commentary has come from all quarters, both within the company itself and from those on the outside looking in. But what does it really mean for the future of Airbnb, and what does Airbnb Trips mean for the future of travel?

Is this the start of something transformative? Or is the offering of 500 “Trips” – many only offered a few days each week – merely a beautiful distraction?

In fact, does it signal Airbnb’s acceptance of itself as an online travel agency? Or is it a violent revolt against the very concept?

As a wise philosopher, Yogi Berra, once said:

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

That being said, I’m going to give it a try.

Airbnb Trips and the future of travel: a shot across the bow

Whether ultimately successful or not, I think years from now we will look back on 2016 as the first time that Airbnb publicly announced its true ambition: to own “Travel” (yes, the capital “T” is intentional).

This may seem a silly argument to make. At this stage Airbnb only offers bookings for “alternative accommodations”, and now with Trips, a few in-travel activities and tours.

The Priceline Group (including, Expedia Inc (including HomeAway and VRBO), and TripAdvisor (including FlipKey and HouseTrip) each cover the whole gamut of travel booking from flights, to accommodations, to cars, cruises, and more.

While true, I think this argument misses the point.

Airbnb’s ambition was never to become another booking engine or OTA.

Airbnb has set out to transform travel. Not only how we book travel through a more beautiful user experience, but also how we are inspired to travel.

How we discover travel options and research them. Where we stay when we travel from tree houses to castles. What we do when we travel via Trips. Even, eventually, how we continue to explore, discover, engage, and encounter travel once we are already traveling.

And herein lies the distinction: Airbnb is not trying to improve how we book travel. Rather, Airbnb is planning to change how we experience Travel.

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