Airbnb's new head of Experiences, Catherine Powell [Credit: Airbnb]

Catherine Powell hired to lead Airbnb Experiences division

US: Airbnb has named former Disney executive Catherine Powell as the new head of its Experiences program, which offers travellers and guests the opportunity to partake in immersive tours and activities led by local hosts.

Powell takes over the role from Joe Zadeh, who was the figurehead behind the launch of Airbnb Experiences in 2016 and is still listed on the company’s website as the vice president of the division. It is believed that his role is transitioning to “better serve stakeholder interests”, suggesting Airbnb may take Experiences down a different route in the future.

Experiences was launched four years ago with the aim to expand and diversify Airbnb’s offering in the alternative accommodation sector as well as gain a footprint in other aspects of the travel economy. It currently lists more than 40,000 experiences in 1,000+ cities worldwide, and last year made major moves by venturing into Cooking and Animal Experiences beyond its core services.

In a statement, Airbnb co-founder and CEO, Brian Chesky, said: “Catherine is the perfect person to lead this business – some people can come up with creative ideas, others know how to run big teams and scale big businesses. Catherine can do both.”

CNBC reports that the Experiences division is internally valued at more than $30 billion by Airbnb but it remains to be seen how significantly it feeds into the company’s overall profits.

Meanwhile, The Information revealed that Experiences generated $15 million in the first three quarters of 2018, and in the second quarter of 2019, Airbnb said it brought in more than $1 billion in total revenue.

Powell said: “Airbnb is a truly inspiring company with a mission that sits at the heart of the Experiences economy.

“I’ve seen firsthand how Experience hosts take guests on amazing adventures and I know Airbnb has a unique opportunity to deliver experiences that are distinct, authentic, immersive and memorable. The potential for this business is virtually unlimited,” she added.

The news follows Airbnb’s announcement last week that it had appointed Jesse Stein as its new global head of real estate, after he left private equity firm KHP Capital. According to the company, Stein will be tasked with launching additional real estate development projects as it seeks to break into traditional real estate investing to add to the existing supply of listings on its site.

Airbnb is also expected to go in for an initial public offering at some point later this year, hence the recent spate of key hirings.

For more information, visit the Airbnb website here.

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