Are you a tour operator looking for new ways to reach customers and increase your business? If so, Airbnb Experiences may be what you’re looking for.

Airbnb Experiences offers an easy-to-use platform for tour operators to list their services and connect with travelers from all over the world.

But before taking the plunge into joining this growing market, tour operators must understand what they are getting into and what is expected of them.

In this blog post, we will discuss what Airbnb Experiences is. We will also discuss how it works, and what terms and conditions tour operators should consider before listing their tours on the platform.

By understanding these basics of Airbnb Experiences, tour operators can make an informed decision on whether or not this OTA fits their business.

What is Airbnb Experiences?

Airbnb Experiences is an online marketplace for tours - or experiences as Airbnb calls them. It was created by Airbnb for tour operators to connect with local and foreign travelers.

With it, tour companies can create unique Airbnb online experiences and in-person experiences and connect travelers with local hosts around the world.

An Airbnb host can host either online experiences or in person experiences for a few hours.

Tours may range from a virtual escape room or a cooking class on local cuisine and a food tour with a local chef. Anyone can host an experience in their own whole new way.

Read more: How to Start a Food Tour Business

It began with

Airbnb started as a home-rental platform in 2008. Since 2019, the platform has sold over $38 billion in home rentals and accommodations in over 200 countries.

Recently, it expanded to activities and experiences in 2016- allowing travelers to get a truly unique local experience when they visit a new city.

The Airbnb Experience Culture: The Antidote to Mass Tourism

The Airbnb platform promotes tours that make travelers "live like a local" and "belong anywhere".

The platform is unlike any other OTA. It calls itself an "antidote to mass tourism". Airbnb Experiences focuses on providing experiences that are more exclusive, intimate, and immersive.

Turn a typical guided tour into a unique Airbnb experience.

Why tour operators should be interested in Airbnb Experiences

Tour operators looking for new ways to reach customers and increase their business should consider joining Airbnb Experiences.

Here are several reasons why.

#1 It is growing:

With currently over 40,000 experiences listed, Airbnb Experiences is still small compared to other leading OTA players.

Host an experience and earn money with Airbnb experiences growing market!

Yet, its largest public offering last 2020 promises to be bigger in the coming years!

See the full report by the NY Times here.

Airbnb Experiences is already one of the most popular travel experiences platforms. So tour operators are sure to find a very large audience for their services!

With Airbnb's increasing popularity and market share, your tour business will enjoy the potential for even more growth in its customer base.

#2 Wide customer base:

Since its launch in 2019, the platform has served more than 800 million guests worldwide.

In the same report, it says it has over 150 million users around the globe.

As a side note, these reports have not been updated since 2019. So we can expect these numbers to be bigger since then.

A 2019 Airbnb report states that "6 guests check into an Airbnb listing every single second"

Although the majority of their bookings are for home rentals and accommodations, the Experiences sector is growing too! Not to mention that there is not a single particular market for it. May it be experiencing a new culture and meeting new people- Airbnb has it all.

Many hosts sell short term rentals as airbnb experiences in a unique perspective with overnight guests - take them to a walking tour, teach them ethical fashion, or create new tours with your local market.

This provides tour operators with a wide range of potential customers that they may not have been able to reach otherwise.

#3 Strong brand presence:

Airbnb is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Its logo and name evoke a feeling of trust, safety, and adventure for travelers looking for unique experiences.

According to Arival's guide to Airbnb Experiences in 2021, 90% of the site's traffic is not sourced from search engines or advertising.

This means 9 out of 10 Airbnb visitors access the service directly - through the app or the website itself.

By joining Airbnb Experiences, tour operators can leverage this strong brand presence to give potential customers confidence that their tour will be memorable, safe, and unforgettable.

Join the Airbnb Experiences program around the world and start accepting bookings

What tour operators should know before joining Airbnb Experiences?

Before joining Airbnb Experiences, tour operators should be aware of what the platform offers and what its terms are.

Like most OTAs, Airbnb Experiences has its own set of standards, commission fees, and policies.

Here's what you should know.

Airbnb Quality Standards

Unlike any typical tour, Airbnb offers an alternative to mainstream travel. Instead, it focuses on hospitality and connections, expertise, and authenticity.

Rather than simply offering tours, Airbnb Experiences aims to provide travelers with access to a truly immersive travel experience. This allows them to gain insider access to a particular expertise or a sense of local life.

Unique. Authentic. Local.

These are the kind of vibes Airbnb is looking for in a tour. If this sounds like your tour, then it is a sign that you should start considering Airbnb Experiences.

Start hosting and attract bookings from group travelers and solo travelers

You can check out Airbnb Experiences' standards and requirements for their Experience Hosts here.

"Three Pillars of a Quality Experience"

#1 Connection

Airbnb focuses on connecting with locals (or hospitality).

To build a meaningful connection between the host and the traveler, the host must create a sense of belonging. This is done through hospitality and intimate experiences.

Popular Airbnb Experiences range from virtual city walking tours and outdoor activities to cooking classes and wine tasting tours with a local expert.

By making the traveler feel like a part of a community, and by introducing them to local culture, cuisine, and people, the host can create an authentic and meaningful Airbnb experience for the traveler. This will create a lasting connection between the host and the traveler.

#2 Expertise

Airbnb also looks for hosts who have expertise in what they are offering. They want tours that provide a genuine insight into what the local experience is like.

For example, a tour of the city's finest street food with a local chef would be an ideal Airbnb experience for a guest looking to explore local cuisine.

Local hosts can start hosting a cooking class with a local expert.

This type of an Airbnb experience allows the guest to not only sample a variety of delicious dishes but also learn about the history and culture of the area from an experienced local.

Plus, it allows the guest to connect with the local community, which can add to the overall travel experience.

#3 Insider Access

Airbnb also looks for hosts who can provide exclusive access to what the region has to offer.

This could include private events, venues that are only open to locals, or anything else that will make the Airbnb experience a truly unique one.

Make a traveler feel like one of the locals | Unique activity

For example, in Japan, Airbnb hosts can offer exclusive access to a variety of unique experiences. These experiences may include a traditional tea ceremony or a private tour of a renowned sake brewery.

A blog post from Airbnb explains these three pillars of a quality experience in detail.

Commission fee

Airbnb Experiences charges a 20% commission (service fee) on each booking. This service fee is taken from the total cost of the Airbnb experience, and it is not refundable.

The 20% commission fee is a big win compared to most OTAs who charge 25% or higher.

Keep in mind, however, that what you get paid is what the customer pays before taxes and fees.

Taxes and service fees are an extra cost (which varies depending on the city/country). In addition, the platform will automatically withhold service fees from your payout.

Airbnb has been very helpful to their hosts and they can help you strategically structure your pricing so you can better attract guests to your listing.

Take the time to review these helpful resources from Airbnb itself:
Here is a video that can help you factor fees into your total price:

Note: The terms suggested in the video are applicable to Airbnb Homes and Rentals, but they can also benefit Airbnb Experiences hosts.

Exclusivity & Cancellation Terms

Airbnb Experiences is exclusive to the Airbnb platform. Again, the Experiences platform focuses on authenticity and exclusivity.

Thankfully, they're becoming more flexible.

You can still list your tour on Airbnb and offer it on other platforms, including your website, or through a third-party provider. But with a condition.

When you are scheduled to host Airbnb guests for a certain day, then it should be exclusive for Airbnb guests only and not mixed with other large groups (which we will also discuss further in the following subheading).

Consider guest minimums when opening availability on multiple channels.

However, operators say the platform is not strictly enforcing this. Thus, the key is clear communication with guests.

There may be guests who are at ease with mixed groups. But there may be others who are not. Whichever the guests prefer, the Experience Host must be willing to commit to the booking. Cancellations may incur penalties, and frequently doing so may qualify your listing for removal.

See the Experience Host cancellation policy and terms here.

Group Minimums & Maximums

Airbnb Experiences caps the number of guests per tour at 10. This ensures that the quality of the Airbnb experience remains high and intimate. Thus, allowing guests to interact and engage with the host and each other.

It also helps to keep the Airbnb experience authentic and intimate.

The group minimum is what you set, but it must be two or more people.

Having a minimum helps you cover fixed costs and ensures a better experience for your customers - as well as yourself.

You should also consider offering discounts for larger groups, as this can help increase conversion rates. For instance, offering a 20% discount for bookings of 10 people or more can help to incentivize customers to book larger groups. This will make the total cost of the booking more attractive.

Listing on other channels

As mentioned, Airbnb is not strictly enforcing its exclusivity terms. You can list your tours on other channels- your travel website or with other OTAs- as long as you keep clear communication with guests' expectations and as long as you do not surpass the maximum of 10 people per Airbnb Experience.

As of now, Airbnb does not directly integrate with reservation systems or a booking software. This means that you will have to manage multiple channels to be able to market the tour more widely.

In addition, you will have to manually update and manage availability across all channels, making sure that the maximum group size of 10 people per tour is not exceeded.

Without this manual monitoring, the Experience Host can overbook and create a situation where two or more bookings are made for the same time slot. This can lead to customer dissatisfaction and a loss of revenue due to cancellations or refunds.

Clear expectations

Above all, make sure guests' expectations are clear.

Guests must know how you are handling their Airbnb experience if you are handling it with other guests.

If they do not agree, the host must be willing to adapt to what the Airbnb guest books for. Airbnb prides itself on exclusivity and uniqueness, and your tours must abide by the same culture.

Every guest is not the same, so transparent communication is the key.

Communicate with your guests clearly when hosting an experience.

How to Start Listing with Airbnb Experiences

Now that you know what to expect when listing your tours on Airbnb Experiences, here are a few tips for getting started.

  • Be sure to read and understand the terms of service.
  • This includes understanding what is expected of hosts and what penalties may be incurred for cancellation or other violations.
  • Create a distinctly different experience.
  • Airbnb encourages hosts to create experiences that are one of a kind. This means offering something different from what is already available on the platform, or what is available from other tour operators.  
  • Consider what equipment and supplies you will need for your tours.
  • Be sure to list any necessary supplies in the description of your experience so guests are aware of what they will need to bring.
  • Think about what type of payment system you will use.
  • Airbnb offers its integrated payments service which allows guests to pay for their experience in one easy transaction.
  • Make sure your profile is up to date and complete.
  • A well-crafted profile that accurately describes what guests can expect from your tour will help you attract more customers.

Should you list with Airbnb Experiences?

At the end of the day, what it all boils down to is understanding what Airbnb Experiences can do for you and your tour business.

It offers an opportunity to reach a new audience that may not be aware of your services. In addition, it gives you access to one of the world’s largest travel networks. It also allows you to easily track and manage bookings, as well as receive payments from guests.

However, what it does not offer is a guarantee of success or the ability to exceed your goals.

You need to be diligent when creating tours that align with what Airbnb guests are looking for and what makes them want to book your tour over others.

Ultimately, the decision to list your tours on Airbnb Experiences is totally up to you. It will come down to what fits well with what you’re trying to achieve as a tour operator and what works for you and your business.

Take your time and weigh the pros and cons before making a decision- this way, you can make an informed decision that you can feel confident about.

Key Takeaway

In summary, Airbnb Experiences can be a great way for tour operators to reach wider audiences and tap into the growing trend of experiential travel. With the right preparation and understanding of what is expected of hosts, it can be an easy and rewarding way to expand your business. From creating unique experiences to managing multiple channels, tour operators can benefit greatly from listing their tours on Airbnb Experiences.

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