animal experiences
Airbnb has launched its 'Animal Experiences' stand-alone category [Credit: Airbnb]

Airbnb launches ‘Animal Experiences’ category

Worldwide: Airbnb is launching ‘Airbnb Animal Experiences’ for its Experiences activities initiative, which will operate as a broader, stand-alone category on the platform.

Having launched ‘Experiences’ in 2016, Airbnb revealed there had been a noticeable trend in bookings for activities involving animals and wildlife, which has fuelled this move. 

Around half of its 1,000 Animal Experiences are being added to the site as new activities to mark the launch of the division.

Airbnb Experiences head of animals Mikel Freemon told The New York Times: “We realised people want to reconnect with animals. We wanted to fulfill that urge in a responsible way.”

The timing of Airbnb’s announcement is apt as companies such as TripAdvisor and zoos and parks around the world are starting to tighten regulations on tourist activities in which they come into contact with animals. 

The former has just announced it will no longer sell tickets to events or attractions that breed or purchase whales, dolphins and other marine mammals, in the wake of growing concern that the welfare of animals is being exploited for entertainment purposes.

Airbnb is collaborating with non-profit organisation World Animal Protection to establish policies that safeguard the ethical treatment of animals, particularly if they are in captivity. For the newly-created division, animal owners will become known as ‘hosts’ and will be required to comply with the welfare policies outlined by the two companies.

The policies state that direct contact with wild animals, including petting, feeding or riding, is forbidden, while domesticated and farmed animals such as horses and camels must not carry more than one rider and over 20 per cent of their total body weight. Also prohibited are interventions with elephants and captive marine mammals, such as riding, bathing and feeding.

World Animal Protection said it would not benefit financially from bookings made through the Animal Experiences division, however it welcomed having Airbnb as a global partner for the project.

Writing in an email published in The New York Times, World Animal Protection director Alesia Soltanpanah said: “To have a travel leader such as Airbnb commit to making animal welfare a top priority will not only help educate travellers on the importance of cruelty-free animal tourism, but also illustrate to them the opportunities to experience wildlife in their natural habitats while travelling.”

Among the Animal Experiences on offer are safaris with conservationists in Africa, expeditions in Brooklyn, New York City to visit wild parrots and country walks with mini ponies in the UK. 

Prices start at a minimum of $10 through to $500+ for longer safaris and expanded activities. According to Airbnb, the average price is close to $50.

For many of the newer Experiences, travellers will be accompanied by animal experts, such as veterinarians, farmers, researchers and naturalists, to ensure the safe running of activities and the ethical treatment of the animals in line with the agreed aforementioned policies.

The expansion of Airbnb’s Experiences category follows from the firm’s recent unveiling of its Record Holders Collection, which gives travellers the opportunity to try out activities hosted by Guinness World Records title holders around the world.

For more information, visit the Airbnb Animal Experiences category here.

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