Worldwide: Airbnb has taken its Experiences division into the virtual realm by launching ‘Online Experiences’, allowing it to provide a “new way for people to connect, travel virtually and earn income during the Covid-19 crisis”.
As the coronavirus continues to restrict travel mobility for the foreseeable future, the company is aiming to help people discover new corners of the world during the pandemic, albeit virtually, by offering many of its existing and also new experiences to travellers around the world.
The head of Airbnb Experiences, Catherine Powell, said: “Human connection is at the core of what we do. With so many people needing to stay indoors to protect their health, we want to provide an opportunity for our hosts to connect with our global community of guests in the only way possible right now, online.”
The programme, which launched in 2016, has branched out into several different forms since its inception.
In the last year alone, Airbnb has unveiled Animal Experiences [helping guests to reconnect with animals and wildlife, the Record Holders Collection [allowing guests the opportunity to try out activities hosted by Guinness World Record holders] and more recently, Olympic Experiences; launching the latter at the same time as the announcement of its global partnership with the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees [IOC / IPC].
Despite the postponement of the Tokyo Games until 2021, Airbnb is refusing to let its plans be scuppered by facilitating unprecedented access to hosts and Olympic medallists from more than 30 countries, including the British triathlete Alistair Brownlee and American bobsledder Lauren Gibbs. Under the new plan, guests can participate in activities such as HIIT workouts or virtual bike tours right from the comfort of their own living room.
Existing Airbnb Experiences include an array of options, ranging from meditation with Buddhist monks, virtual visits with the dogs of Chernobyl and cooking with a Moroccan family.
Online Experiences aims to provide:
- New activities for families to explore, such as learning the secrets of magic
- Options for work colleagues who want to reconnect and bond with team activities, for example making coffee with a professional coffee taster
- Features for groups looking to celebrate birthdays or get-togethers privately, and the option to request specific dates for Experiences [including bartending with experts]
The company is also simultaneously pledging to provide its Experiences offerings free of charge to demographics that are most likely to be societally isolated, such as older adults. For this reason, Airbnb is partnering with a number of local organisations around the world to curate Experiences for their communities so that they can still learn new skills during the lockdown, while at the same time protecting their health.
The demographics include:
- SAGE [Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders], the world’s largest and oldest organisation which has the mission of improving the lives of LGBT older people
- National Council on Aging [NCOA], helping people in the United States aged over 60 to meet the challenges of aging
- Associazione Nazionale Alpini – Sezione di Milan, veterans of the military corp in Italy
- Amigos de los Mayores, an organisation combating unwanted loneliness and social isolation amongst the elderly in Spain
SAGE CEO Michael Adams said: “Millions of elders aren’t able to go outside and risk their health due to the current crisis, and need activities to help them stay connected to the world around them.
“Through our partnership with Airbnb, SAGE is able to give older members of LGBT communities across the country an opportunity to not only meet other people, but also learn a new hobby and travel to nearly anywhere around the world, all from the safety of their home. This is what partnership and connection is all about,” he added.
Bookings can be made with immediate effect, with over 50 virtual Online Experiences now available via the Airbnb platform. The company said that “thousands more” will be added over the coming months, after it was announced that its regular Experiences programme would be suspended until at least the end of April to encourage people to stay in their homes and protect their health services.
Online Experiences will be hosted through remote video conferencing website Zoom.