On the surface, Airbnb Experiences appear like they are following a regular retail marketplace strategy similar to other online travel agents such as Expedia, TripAdvisor/Viator, GetYourGuide, Klook, etc.
However Airbnb Experiences has a different strategy. It appears much more like a franchised supply side operation similar to how the leading global sightseeing operators trade, with each destination host supplying experiences using the global brand name.
As such, they compete long-term with companies that probably don’t currently see Airbnb as a threat, while some companies who have up to this point been worried by Airbnb may end up best of friends and natural partners over the longer term.
There are three distinguishing factors on the supply side that make the Airbnb Experiences service stand out. In particular, exclusive supply is the key differentiator that hints at their long-term supply side ambitions.
Airbnb guaranteed some hosts the equivalent of a full slate of bookings in the first few months after Experiences was launched, amounting to $2,500 a month for Anthony Laurencio and Cuci Amador in Miami, who offer a music-recording experience in a sound studio. The pair, bandmates who also were featured by Airbnb during the Experiences launch, say they get one or two customers a month now and struggle to make it profitable, since hosts are expected to carry through even if underbooked.
The industry expectation is that Airbnb will drop their exclusive supply model and begin to work with existing mainstream tour suppliers, just like they are beginning to work with mainstream hotel providers. This would make them like every other online travel agent retailer.
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