Positioning itself to take over the travel industry, Airbnb on Thursday said that for the first time, travelers will be able to use the site to do more than book a place to stay.
Tourists now can use Airbnb’s new Trips platform to book adventures hosted by locals — anything from a whiskey tasting, to a dirt biking trip, to a truffle hunting excursion. Soon the site will expand to let users make restaurant reservations while they travel, and eventually, Airbnb plans to start booking flights.
With the announcement, the startup that introduced the world to home sharing nearly 10 years ago — an explosive phenomenon that has since threatened to upend the hotel industry and the rental markets in major cities across the U.S. — has made a major leap toward its goal of owning every aspect of the travel experience.
The launch sets San Francisco-based Airbnb, a $30 billion company with 3 million short-term rental listings around the world, on stronger footing to compete with Expedia and other top tourism industry players. It also could sweeten a potential initial public offering next year.
“For many people, travel is easy, but it’s not magical,” said co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky, “and if you want to have an amazing trip you end up basically in a research project. … Pretty soon you can literally spend as much time planning your trip as on your trip. So we want to fix this.”
The changes come as Airbnb is fighting challenges on the home-sharing front. In cities including San Francisco and New York, Airbnb is locked in legal battles with regulators over rules designed to prevent a frothy short-term rental market from driving up prices for local residents. And the startup faces increasing competition from traditional travel industry players. Priceline’s Booking.com now offers home and apartment rentals,…