Airbnb launches new features to help you look less like a tourist

Airbnb wants you to stop sightseeing.

Don’t get lost in the sea of tourists crowding Times Square. Don’t take a cheesy picture pretending to prop up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. And please — whatever you do — don’t take a Segway tour.

Airbnb on Tuesday announced a collection of new features designed to help travelers experience cities the way a local would.  Co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky announced the launch of the new campaign, called “Live There,” at the company’s San Francisco headquarters Tuesday from a stage decorated to look like someone’s living room.

“What if in the future I ask you ‘where have you lived?’ And you mention all the places that you’ve been to an Airbnb,” he asked a crowd that included Airbnb hosts and guests from around the world. “You see, going is travel. But living is a deep experience. You stay in a hotel, but you live in a home.”

The redesigned Airbnb app will include three new features intended to make guests feel more at home in the places they travel. The algorithms the company uses to match travelers and hosts will become more sophisticated, so travelers will be placed in homes that meet their needs — whether they are traveling with young children, or would love a house with a pool. Travelers also will have the option to select the neighborhood that best fits the experience they want. They can choose a neighborhood that is “lively,” “hip,” or “quiet,” for example. Then they will be shown the profile, complete with photos, of a neighborhood matching that description. That feature is launching with 691 neighborhoods in 23 cities around the globe.

Airbnb also is launching a new guidebook feature, which includes 3.5 million host recommendations for local spots.

“This is what locals actually do,” Chesky said. “You see, this is the difference between seeing a city like a tourist, and seeing a city like a local.”

Chesky’s announcement was met with applause from the audience, and guests and hosts alike laughed at his stories and photos of his parents’ ultra-touristy trip to Paris. But not all Airbnb hosts are thrilled about the change.

Nancy Niederhauser, who has been hosting Airbnb guests in her San Francisco home for five years, said the change made her nervous. She’s worried her Potrero Hill home won’t be among the top neighborhood destinations listed on the app, and that travelers might have a harder time finding her profile. Niederhauser says she already embraces the concept of “living” rather than “traveling.”

“I’m not sure how this new app is going to accomplish this better than the current setting,” she said after the Tuesday event.

Image: A selfie stick mars the view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. From Airbnb’s “Don’t go there. Live there.” video announcing the launch of its “Live There” campaign. 



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