Airbnb announced in November the launch of Airbnb Trips, the new platform that aims to provide users with a complete travel experience. Dinner reservations, outdoor activities, and of course, accommodations, users will be able to book almost everything for their vacation within Trips.
Airbnb’s move is the latest in the competitive travel industry and puts airlines in a tricky spot. As more companies aim to provide everything a traveler needs, what more can airlines provide? Today we examine this question and what Airbnb Trips means for airlines.
About Airbnb Trips
Trips currently allows users to book vacation activities across three areas:
Experiences: Users can choose from a variety of local experiences organized around several categories, from sports to history to arts. Experiences also vary in length, from just a few hours to multi-day immersions. Half of listed experiences are less than $200 and come with previous user reviews. Experiences also uses a new identity authentication process.
Places: This section focuses on sightseeing and education about the area. Users can browse through guides written by local influencers. Audio tours, already available in Los Angeles, will become available in select cities this year. Finally, users can also look for local meetups that are hosted by area businesses.
Home: Where Airbnb got its name. Airbnb is planning to add a grocery delivery service in the future.
Trips is currently available for 12 cities, including San Francisco, London, and Tokyo. Airbnb aims to expand Trips to 50 cities this year. Airbnb plans to expand Trips’ offerings to flights and services. In other words, Airbnb could potentially take over the flight aspect of traveling.
Offering More Than Flights
Airbnb Trips isn’t alone. Google Trips is another product aiming to become a go-to place for travel. Similar to other apps in the Google suite, an email is all it takes to pull in existing travel information. “Reservations” and “Things to Do” tiles allow users to book and explore things to do in their destination city. Neither Airbnb or Google started as all-inclusive travel companies, yet they’ve taken the leap airlines haven’t. Why?
For one, airlines are at a disadvantage due to their position in the travel experience. Most people start their vacation plans by searching for potential destinations and hotels. Flight booking comes after a destination has been selected. Yet this shouldn’t be a severe setback for airlines. After all, flying is a necessary part of traveling and they’re already positioned in this space.
The obvious solution for airlines is to engage with customers earlier in the process. This can happen in two ways:
Form partnerships with companies involved in other parts of the travel experience
Expand their own offerings to cover new parts of the travel experience
Airlines can look to Airbnb for partnership examples, which expand beyond Trips. The company’s business program has created a referral partnership with American Express Global Business Travel. Trips’ audio tours feature is made possible through a partnership with GPS Tour company Detour.
Creating a Seamless Travel Experience
Some airlines have already taken steps to expand their offerings and partnerships. Delta and Virgin airlines offer miles to flyers who book with Airbnb. British Airways tried to stake a claim in holiday traveling with its expanded portal (hotels and car hires were part of the experience). American Airlines has partnered with Uber to make booking rides to and from select airports easier.
Yet these one-off partnerships aren’t enough. Trips is bringing in every aspect of the travel experience under their umbrella. The goal is to provide a seamless experience for the traveler. While perks and bonus miles are good for existing loyalty members, they do little to pull in new customers.
Trips also points to another change in consumer behavior: app usage. According to Max Coppin, Partner Development Manager at Google, travelers are downloading fewer apps. While a superior app can help build customer confidence and make the airline stand out among the competition it’s far from a one-all solution. Why download an app for each airline when an all-inclusive app has my flight info and more?
The Closing Opportunity Window
Airbnb’s dominance in the peer-to-peer rental space gives it a huge advantage in the travel space as a whole. While airlines will always remain a vital part of traveling, they risk missing out on huge revenue opportunities if they don’t take steps to expand their offerings across the entire travel experience. In terms of claiming the winner for travel, Trips may have leaped ahead of airlines. Yet the winner is far from clear.