Truffle Hunting, Anyone? Airbnb Offers New Experiential Trips

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Home is where the heart is, but it's not where Airbnb is going to restrict itself. The eight-year-old company will expand into new, more local territory by offering experiences and inside guides, it announced Thursday at Los Angeles-based Airbnb Open, its annual conference.

"We don't think there should be a tradeoff, we think travel can be magical and easy," said Brian Chesky, Airbnb chief executive and co-founder, on Day One of the three-day event, which was expected to attract 7,000 daily attendees. He noted that Airbnb has been working on its new products for the last two years.

Now available on the Airbnb app, "Experiences" offers immersive activities in local communities, like Korean embroidery or truffle hunting. Offered by hosts, the bookings can be multi-day or just a few hours. Airbnb now has 500 experiences at more than 12 cities, and half are under $200 in cost.

The company also announced "Places," which provides guidebooks from local insiders as well as celebrities, like surfer Kelly Slater's guide to Malibu's surfing culture, or actress Gina Rodriguez' Venice Beach recommendations, as well as meetups and audio walks. Airbnb also rolled out a trip itinerary offering, and expects to expand its products to include flights and services in the future. Mr. Chesky said Airbnb has partnered with reservation brand Resy to allow restaurant reservations directly through the Airbnb app.

A 60-second promotional video features customers using the app to find experiences in sword fighting, truffle hunting, elite running and burlesque dancing. "Welcome to the world of trips: Airbnb" a voiceover says at the end of the spot. Variations of the video, which splices together the 30-second trailer videos from each host discussing his or her passion, will run on TV, in cinema and on social media beginning this week.

Marketing is launching in the company's three key markets of North America, the U.K. and Australia, according to Airbnb Chief Marketing Officer Jonathan Mildenhall. He noted that the company also partnered with Facebook Live on a broadcast push which will feature six trip experiences in different cities around the world. Viewers in Paris would see a different experience than Miami, for example.

"As Airbnb moves into becoming more of an experiential brand, so too does the marketing—we have to become much more experiential," said Mr. Mildenhall. "What you'll see over the coming months is much more surprising experiential-type marketing initiatives."

Airbnb, which spent $23.5 million on measured media in the U.S. last year, according to Kantar Media, worked with TBWA/Chiat/DayL.A. , Bokeh, San Francisco and London-based Koto on the new effort. The company is dedicating about 8% of its media budget to Trips marketing for the remainder of the year, but the new offerings will integrate into 100% of the spending in 2017, Mr. Mildenhall noted.

Earlier this year, news leaked that the San Francisco-based company, which boasts more than 2 million global listings, planned to expand into new services such as restaurant reservations and city tours.

Expanding into new travel offerings should expand Airbnb's revenue base beyond a reliance on home-focused sharing at a time when such short-term rentals have come under legal scrutiny in cities like New York and Los Angeles.

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