Travel Volunteerism: Airbnb to Offer Users a Way to Help Local Communities

After 8 years in business, travel accommodations company, Airbnb is expanding its platform and the services it offers by launching Airbnb Trips. Initially a peer-based home rental service, the company went on to partner with major travel brands like Delta and American Express for airline miles, points, and business tools for users. Now, Airbnb’s co-founder and CEO, Brian Chesky, is rolling out plans to do more than just provide customers with access to private lodging; he also wants to provide travelers with things to do once they reach their destination. During November’s Airbnb Open, a travel and hospitality festival held in Los Angeles, Chesky told the audience that planning a trip takes longer than the actual trip, and his company wants “to take the research project out” of travel. 

On Airbnb’s updated app, users can now create an itinerary under “Trips” and book “Experiences”— activities that range from those of typical tourism to exclusive events and meet and greets. About 1 in 10 of these Experiences are allocated for “social impact experiences,” which airbnb.com describes as volunteerism and getting involved with a “cause you care about [where] 100% of what you pay goes directly to the organizations.” Some of these causes relate to social inclusion, mass incarceration, and animal rights, and activities include dance, gardening, feeding the poor and composing music. These Experiences will reportedly cost between $150-$250, and Airbnb has waived its commission for social impact experiences.

Chesky says that Experiences will be available in 12 destinations—Detroit, London, Paris, Nairobi, San Francisco, Havana, Cape Town, Florence, Miami, Seoul, Tokyo and Los Angeles. He also says the company will expand Experiences to 50 additional cities around the globe this year, with the ultimate goal of being able to provide Experiences in every Airbnb host location. 

Experiences, Chesky says, are ways to immerse oneself into local communities and are a part of a “holistic travel experience.” Social impact experiences are identified on the app by a “social ribbon.” The site notes that participating in this type of social volunteerism allows travelers to “join with passionate locals” and “leave your mark on the community.” Social impact experiences are always hosted by charities and non-profit organizations.  Chesky also says that Airbnb has a partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation—the charity for children with life threatening illnesses—and that Airbnb will be granting “a wish a day.” This will be done via donations, accommodations, and “transformational experiences” according to its website.

Brian Chesky, the founder of Airbnb.

Brian Chesky, the founder of Airbnb.

Learn more at airbnb.com and on their YouTube channel for a look at Social Impact Experiences at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwwMT05jqfU&feature=youtu.be

ALEXANDREA THORNTON

Alexandrea Thornton is a journalist and producer living in NY. A graduate of UC Berkeley and Columbia University, she splits her time between California and New York. She's an avid reader and is penning her first non-fiction book.