Airbnb starts tour services, Queenstown launch next year

Airbnb chief Brian Chesky (Getty)
Airbnb chief Brian Chesky (Getty)

Home-sharing service Airbnb is stepping out of the house and into the city.

The company's announced a new service calls 'Trips', expanding its offering from accommodation in homes to personalised tours, activities and experiences.

Trips is available from Friday in 12 cities, including London, Los Angeles, Havana and Nairobi. The service will offer everything from marathon running in Kenya to photographing the galaxy with astronomers in Los Angeles.

New Zealand will join the list of host nations when the service launches in Queenstown next year - though Kiwis can book overseas trips right away.

The new service was announced in a keynote address by co-founder Brian Chesky at the Airbnb Open, the company's annual festival in Los Angeles.

Like Airbnb's accommodation service, Trips will be hosted exclusively by locals rather than established tourism businesses.

Mr Chesky says the service will be far cry from the normal tour experience, which is often crowded and rarely personal.

"You're in line, you're lonely, you're an outsider. You're doing things locals never do."

He says users won't feel like tourists - instead they'll be immersed in local communities. Likewise, hosts will have the chance to be rewarded for sharing their lives with travelling guests.

"If you have a passion, an interest or a hobby you can share your community with others in the world," says Mr Chesky.

The move is Airbnb's latest act of disruption to the traditional travel industry. Around 140 million guests have used the service worldwide since its inception in 2008, when co-founders Mr Chesky and Joe Gebbia turned three air mattresses in their living room into the first Airbnb listing.

Since then, Airbnb has made spare rooms and baches into a $43 billion business - threatening the hotel industry as it does.

In New Zealand, more than 500,000 guests have used Airbnb in the past year alone. It's earning 20,000 Kiwi hosts an average of $3,700 a year.

Queenstown residents will soon have the chance to earn extra money as a personal guide - though aspiring hosts will be vetted by Airbnb, and not every experience will be accepted.

Along with the launch of the new Trips service, Airbnb has revamped its flagship accommodation offering, which now allowing users to book car rentals and even order groceries through its app.

It's also signalled a move into flight bookings in future - just another step by a growing travel giant keen to expand from the home to the world.