Ever heard of heritage travel? It’s when folks pilgrimage to uncover family histories in their forebears’ home cities, towns, and countries. According to a recent survey, about 89% of people in India and 69% of those in France and the U.S. have traveled to at least one country of their ancestry, and many travelers in Australia, India, the U.K., and Brazil say that visiting a place connected with their relatives will be the most important consideration when planning their next vacation.
To facilitate these types of trips, global hospitality marketplace and service company Airbnb today announced that it is teaming up with 23andMe, the biotech firm perhaps best known for its personalized genomics reports about family history and health, to incorporate heritage travel recommendations into their respective user experiences. Specifically, 23andMe customers will soon be able to click through to their ancestral populations to find Airbnb Homes and Experiences located in their ancestral countries, and Airbnb now has dedicated pages that correspond with 23andMe’s genetic populations in Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and West Asia, Central America and Mexico, South America, East and South Asia, and the Caribbean and Europe.
“We empower 23andMe customers to learn about themselves and their ancestry through their unique genetic code,” said 23andMe CEO and cofounder Anne Wojcicki. “Working with Airbnb, a leader who is reimagining travel, provides an exciting opportunity for our customers to connect with their heritage through deeply personal cultural and travel experiences.”
Additional terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it could be a lucrative partnership for the two companies. Heritage travel landed on Lonely Planet’s list of Top Travel Trends for 2019. And according to Airbnb, the number of travelers using its booking platform to trace their roots increased by 500% in the past five years, driven mostly by older guests aged 60-90. (Airbnb says the most popular places of origin for heritage trips are the U.S., Canada, Australia, Mainland China, the U.K., France, South Korea, New Zeland, Taiwan, and Brazil.) For its part, 23andMe reports that the majority of its customers have at least five populations within their ancestry compositions, presenting plenty of heritage travel opportunities.
Airbnb and 23andMe might have competition in Ancestry.com, which worked with travel company Go Ahead Tours to launch a line of group tours to Europe that come complete with DNA testing and an onboard genealogist. But Airbnb’s reach and scale will likely give it an advantage over rivals in the emerging heritage travel space.
“At Airbnb, we believe that authentic travel experiences help you connect with local cultures and create a sense of belonging anywhere in the world — and what better way to do that than traveling to your roots?” Airbnb cofounder and chief product officer Joe Gebbia said. “We’re proud to team up with 23andMe, the leader in helping people learn about their genes and ancestry, to make it easier for travelers to plan trips as unique as their DNA.”