Airbnb Online Experiences lets you go on virtual travel or tours.
The top-rated experiences from Airbnb’s latest service include sangria-making with DragTaste, magic classes and guided meditation with sheep.
If you’re starting to feel a little wanderlust right now, you’re not alone. I have been daydreaming of the day I can dust off my millennial pink AWAY suitcase, hop on a plane and get lost in the streets of a foreign city again. Normally, when there isn’t a global pandemic or widespread civil unrest and protests against police brutality and systemic racism, I write about travel and destinations around the world. Quarantining during COVID-19 has redefined how we connect with people and places around the world, both domestically and internationally — among lots of other things. Sheltering in place has forced us to adapt to many new norms and continuously discover ways to fuel our creativity, whether that’s learning a new language, cooking a new bread recipe or playing an instrument. And for world travelers like myself who are used to globetrotting during the spring and summer months, COVID-19 has meant finding ways to bring destinations into our homes.
Online travel marketplace Airbnb is one of many travel companies that has been severely impacted by COVID-19, leading it to shift how it does business. Earlier this year, the company announced a new initiative: Airbnb Online Experiences, replacing their in-person experiences. If you’re interested in traveling without traveling or otherwise exploring without leaving your home, you might want to consider which of these experiences is right for you. But what are Airbnb experiences to begin with, and how should you go about determining which one is right for you? We’ll take a closer look at how Airbnb Online Experiences works, what it costs and what it looks like to connect this way with other people online during a pandemic.
What is Airbnb Online Experiences?
In 2016, Airbnb launched Airbnb Experiences as a way to connect local hosts with travelers seeking culturally-driven, in-person experiences in a new city. You could meditate with a Buddhist monk in Japan or cook an authentic Moroccan meal with a family. Due to the ongoing and global travel restrictions, the company had to suspend the offline Experiences platform and pivot to Airbnb Online Experiences.
Airbnb Online Experiences allows hosts to continue earning by sharing their passions with people through virtual meetings hosted on Zoom, where curious minds can sign up to learn from expert hosts around the world. The platform offers curated experiences designed for various stay-in travelers:
- Families who are seeking fresh ways to entertain their children
- Isolated seniors
- Groups looking to celebrate birthdays
- And colleagues who can reconnect over team-bonding activities
How does Airbnb Online Experiences work?
Airbnb Online Experiences currently has over 50 experiences and anticipates thousands more in the coming months. Experiences range from learning how to cook Mexican salsas or practicing yoga with an Olympic rower and can be filtered by interests, dates, time of day or price. The average price of an experience is $22 per person and can run as low as $2 per person for a cultural journey through London’s Chinatown, for example.
Airbnb Online Experiences are usually hosted in small groups of no more than 10 people in an interactive classroom setting. Unlike other online learning platforms — like Udemy, which offers pre-recorded lessons — Airbnb Online Experiences allows you to ask your teacher questions on Zoom and meet other people from every corner of the world.
Airbnb Online Experience for free
Many in the elderly population, which is especially vulnerable right now, might be able to access Airbnb Online Experiences for free through various partnerships with local organizations including:
- National Council on Aging (NCOA)
- Associazione Nazionale Alpini – Sezione di Milan
- and Amigos de los Mayores
“Millions of elders aren’t able to go outside and risk their health due to the current crisis, and need activities to help them stay connected to the world around them,” says Michael Adams, SAGE’s CEO. “Through our partnership with Airbnb, SAGE is able to give older members of LGBT communities across the country an opportunity to not only meet other people but also learn a new hobby and travel to nearly anywhere around the world, all from the safety of their home.”
Who are Airbnb’s Experience hosts?
Anyone can sign up to be a host and share their local expertise. Hosts are encouraged to offer a unique experience that gives viewers a chance to fully immerse themselves within a new culture. In addition to offering hosts free support on how to get set up and capture their experience, Airbnb is also providing hosts complimentary Zoom Business accounts, where all the online experiences are hosted.
Online experience might be healthy during a pandemic
As the number of days in quarantine increases, so might the preponderance of depression and anxiety. Research from nonprofit Mental Health of America showed a 19-percent increase in clinical anxiety in early February and a 12-percent increase during the first two weeks of March.
“Most of us are adjusting to big changes like loss of jobs, changes in lifestyle — and are physically disconnected now more than ever,” says Sevil Arli, PsyD. “Since the quarantine began, many people immediately found different ways to still connect — with nature, with others and within themselves. Finding ways to create some level of normalcy, like setting up Zoom calls to connect with family and friends or continue to engage in group activities via the internet, allows for self-care and survival. It instills within us a hopeful outlook.”
According to the National Institute on Aging, some studies have shown positive relationships between social interactions and mental health. “Platforms like the one Airbnb provides not only give options for users to connect but also help us to increase our mood and quality of life by giving us something to look forward to and a sense of purpose — not to mention, a fun distraction — which will elevate mood and shield from focusing on the news, social media or other platforms that may fill our minds with negative or anxiety-producing thoughts,” Arli said.
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