The centerpiece of the event from a press perspective, and already much reported, was the launch of Airbnb Trips, a move into branded Airbnb experiences, with the ability to make restaurant bookings in the pipeline. There are also lifestyle guides in the form of online curated guides, as well as a new magazine in partnership with Hearst Media, both created entirely by community members to offer authentic local content. This is all part of a bigger move into 360-degree travel booking, complementing existing partnerships with airlines such as Delta and Virgin America and with American Express.
Experiences for sale include stargazing, truffle hunting, social-good and charity projects and cookery classes, led by Airbnb expert members and packaged with sleek, inspirational photography. Another new app feature is curated travel content, described as “Places”, which not only includes travel guides penned by Airbnb members about local hotspots, but audio walking tours. (To note: Branded content podcasts are also on the rise. Brands are increasingly going audio.) There are also local “meet-ups” on offer, connecting travelers to events that are running when they visit locations. Airbnb is also enhancing the service aspect of its offer—in future “Homes” will allow people to pre-order groceries and book rental cars, not just reserve their accommodation.
This was the third Airbnb Open, and it was a masterclass in brand immersion. It was interesting and timely on several levels. It’s the latest in a rising form of consumer-facing events that blend thought leadership with entertainment. (Oprah’s Live Your Best Life Weekend, which featured talks by celebrities, sponsored head massages by Pantene and yoga classes, is another example.) Revolt Music Conference, held by Sean “Diddy” Combs, is another example, as is Vogue UK’s Festival. They’re becoming a lucrative revenue stream for brands—Airbnb Open cost $345 to attend, plus an additional $60 for the Bélo Awards, and accommodated 6,000 attendees.
The content of the event encompassed everything from tips for adding style to your Airbnb rentals by celebrity designer Kelly Wearstler to enhancing the Airbnb experience for guests. Another aspect was promoting Airbnb’s goals and core philosophy. A talk by policy chief Chris Lehane highlighted how Airbnb and the sharing economy are good for communities, help sustainability and enable people to live in expensive cities. (Airbnb has also been expanding its Home Sharing Clubs where local hosts can meet and support each other.) Other talks were about how Airbnb enhances empathy, or focused on Airbnb projects like Samara—an incubator of sorts, dedicated to finding solutions to town-planning and social challenges.