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Joe Zadeh, head of Airbnb Experiences, was Airbnb’s ninth employee, joining while the company worked out of an apartment. He talks to Sebastian Shehadi about evolving forms of tourism and how his department caters to them.

Q: Why are an increasing number of tourists looking for an ‘experience’?

A: Travellers are increasingly looking to connect more deeply with the places, and the people who live in the communities, they visit. Airbnb Experiences is a people-powered platform that allows visitors to see and experience a destination through the eyes of a local by creating a way for visitors to connect with the diverse people, cultures and terrains of the places they visit, such as cooking pasta with an Italian family in Rome.

Airbnb Experiences is meeting the demand for new and unique things to do while travelling. Since launching in November 2016, we have seen incredible growth, with more than 30,000 Experience listings available in over 1000 cities globally, from 500 in just 12 cities. In 2018, the number of seats booked on Airbnb Experiences increased nearly sevenfold, year-on-year.  

Q: What is your top tip for public and private sector leaders in terms of tapping into the ‘experience’ trend?

A: At Airbnb, we believe it’s essential to partner with local governments and organisations that represent the communities they serve. For example, we created the Airbnb Africa Academy to encourage healthy tourism and entrepreneurship across the continent. Airbnb works with community-based and grassroots organisations to offer support and training to locals in rural and under-resourced communities that are interested in becoming an Airbnb Experiences or Homes host. We also recently partnered with Visit Britain in an effort to drive tourism and boost the local economy. We have found that partnerships between the public and private sector are key.

We also know that locals are passionate about the communities in which they live. Giving them a voice in decision-making has never been more important to ensure they are not only helping to set the agenda but also benefiting directly from tourism. Experiences was built on this premise - empowering people to share their expertise and passion for their community with visitors and locals alike.

Q: What other interesting industry trends are you are seeing?

A: People want to travel around their interests and with Experiences, we’ve built a platform that offers a wide range of activities offered by local experts that provide unprecedented access and human connection. We’ve seen food and dining, nature, art and animal-themed experiences generate significant revenue for hosts.

Travellers are becoming increasingly civic-minded and want to take action around causes that they care about, both at home and abroad. Social impact experiences, such as hiking with rescue dogs in California or plastic fishing in Amsterdam's canals, empower nonprofits by giving them a platform to fund raise and promote their mission, and they’re driving Airbnb users to engage in social causes around the globe. Nonprofit organisations keep 100% of the proceeds and to date, more than $4m has been generated for nonprofits through social impact experiences.

Q: Is traveller demand for experiences mainly a European and North American phenomenon?

A: Increasingly, people around the world are valuing experiences over consumer goods and products. In fact, the New York Times recently reported that global spending on the so-called experience economy, which is being driven primarily by millennial consumers, is expected to reach $8200bn by 2028, according to market research firm Euromonitor.

Airbnb Experiences has seen incredible growth and a lot of it is driven by emerging markets in Asia, which are powering the growth of global tourism. In China, where Airbnb Experiences launched in March 2017, we now offer over 2000 experiences across 25 cities. By the end of 2019, we expect to have experiences available in more than 500 towns and cities across the Asia-Pacific region.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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