Airbnb has often talked about looking beyond the home, and this week it moved closer to that goal with a platform launch that consolidates all your trip needs into a single app. With this step, company chief executive Brian Chesky proclaimed Airbnb to be a true “trip platform.”
With any platform, you’re going to have some integrations with third-party software. Here, the company teamed up with Detour to provide audio walking tours and Resy to manage restaurant reservations. But there are no plans to make a public API available…at least not yet.
“We’ve always wanted to start with the…travel experience [users] are having out there. We need to highly curate what services and third parties we work with,” said Mike Curtis, Airbnb’s vice president of engineering. He promised to examine prospective tie-ins “partnership by partnership.”
The integration of Detour and Resy marks the first time outside services have become part of the Airbnb experience, as the company slowly encourages guests to rely on it as their main travel companion. There are similarities here with the playbooks from companies like Facebook, Google, and Uber.
When asked why such an honor was bestowed upon Detour and Resy, Airbnb replied in a statement: “In Places, we want to bring cities to life beyond standard tourist attractions. Detour does this in a unique way through their experiential walking tours. Resy also brings a unique angle to Trips — their curated, hand-picked approach allows people to experience locations through food. Providing access to the best local restaurants makes them a perfect parter for us.”
Travelers today rely on multiple apps to navigate cities they’re visiting. Instead of using one app for your flight or driving directions, another for booking accommodations, and then others — like Foursquare, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, and Peek — to help you figure out what to do, Airbnb is looking to consolidate everything into a single destination.
With 3 million listings on its platform, Airbnb has a massive knowledge base of residents that the company can tap into, enabling guests to glean insight about what local people would do. If you’re visiting a new city, you might want to visit some of the touristy places, but to have a really good time, you’ll probably want to check out night clubs, museums, and other attractions that are off the beaten track.
As the company extends its reach beyond the home, it won’t always be able to rely on its “lone guns blazing” approach. In fact, Chesky teased a few forward-looking plans, including the possibility of integrating flights and services into Airbnb’s app. It’s quite possible that third-party developers seeing the company’s growth have become enamored with the possibilities. And it’s not that the company doesn’t care about developers, as Curtis acknowledged there may be “more partner-powered” options as Airbnb shifts into new areas.
He said that APIs were interesting, though he declined to provide an estimate for when a public API might be released. It’s all about the guest experience, he told VentureBeat, and the company wants to ensure that any integrations match up to the brand reputation.
If successful, the Airbnb platform could be similar to what Travelocity, Expedia, and Orbitz offered, but better attuned to the needs of the current travel market. Not only would you have accommodation booking, you might see tie-ins with services like Uber and Lyft to help you get around neighborhoods, syncing with airlines so hosts know if your flight was delayed, activity planners such as Peek to include native booking services, and much more.
These are all interesting possibilities, but to Curtis, they’re not what his company is all about: “We see technology not as an end but as a means to empower people. Our angle is how do we use tech to…lead to great travel experiences,” he said.