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Airbnb rolls out 'Experiences' in New Zealand and encourages locals to become micro-entrepreneurs

A 'Watersports' experience being offered in Auckland

Airbnb has launched a new feature – Experiences – in New Zealand for the first time, allowing entrepreneurial local hosts to put forward niche experiences people can’t find anywhere else. Idealog talks with New Zealand company manager Sam McDonagh about what this new feature means, how hosts can use the platform to become micro-entrepreneurs, and more.

More than 100 experiences are available on the platform across New Zealand after a pilot launch in Queenstown last year proved it was a successful endeavour for our tourism-focused country (Airbnb had more than 1.9 million guest arrivals into New Zealand in 2017, which equates to 71 percent growth year-over-year).

Some of the experiences already available include learning the Haka in Queenstown from a local of Maori descent named Joe, or making a sculpture at Weta Workshop alongside Matthew, one of its employees.

But what differentiates it from the experiences you’d find on the likes of Trip Advisor, or just a good ol’ Google search?

Airbnb New Zealand country manager Sam McDonagh says what the experiences the company carefully vets and improves before publishing to its platform go beyond the typical tours, as they are designed and led by entrepreneurial locals who want to pass on their own hobbies, skills or expertise with others.

“The expansion of experiences across all of New Zealand will help to boost tourism outside of city centres by attracting more people to regional areas. Experiences are a great way for creative entrepreneurs to tap into their passions and unlock economic opportunities through the platform,” McDonagh says.

“We know the importance to our travelers of living like a local, so number one: what is the knowledge a host is going to bring to the experience that is unique and others might not know?”

“The second thing is the access – it’s like being an insider – or lining up to go to a nightclub and being able to skip the queue. There might be a secret beach that only locals know about. For example, we’ve got hosts just outside of Auckland that know of a beach with magnetic sand where you can create sculptures, so that’s access to something other people don’t know about.”

Statistics about Airbnb in New Zealand

  • 40,000 listings nationally
  • The average host makes $4700 a year
  • 28 nights are spent hosted, on average
  • More than 100 experiences are now live on platform

So, what other ways are people using the platform to be entrepreneurial? According to McDonagh, a lot of the feedback they hear from hosts is that making their humble abode up on the platform – or making a room from their humble abode available – allows them to pursue whatever creative pursuit they want to do far more flexibly than working another job.

“People in the creative sectors – like musicians or artists – if they share their home on Airbnb, it means they can focus on what they’re passionate about as opposed to working another job that takes them away from what’s important to them,” he says.

And the company is itching for more people to follow this lead and put their homes on the platform. One of the key issues Airbnb has faced is there hasn’t been enough homes to go around, or not enough variety suited to everyone’s particular tastes. So its new ambitious goal is to get one billion people on the platform by 2028.

“There’s certain markets around the world, like London, Paris, Toyko, Osaka and Kyoto, and even places like Auckland, Sydney and Melbourne, where there are genuinely times where there are not enough listings to on Airbnb to meet the demand,” McDonagh says.

“That’s not 365 days a year, so one of the things we talk about is the idea and concept of normalising hosting, so how do you share your home, even if it’s just for a night for an event?

“This weekend, in Auckland there’s the Bledisloe Cup. So there are probably some people around Eden Park, and even Ponsonby and Grey Lynn, that may not have shared their home on Airbnb before, but they’re doing it tonight – and that might mean that because of that, they’re taking their family to the rugby, so there’s lots of reasons people do it.”

In terms of business travel trends spotted, McDonagh says people using Airbnb to travel for work is now the fasting growing category on the platform, with 300 percent growth year-on-year. A big chunk of these work trips also include a Friday, Saturday and Sunday night tacked onto the beginning or end, showing people are combining business with pleasure (‘bleasure’) when they go away, he says.

“We’re seeing that a lot, particularly with younger employees who are saying, ‘this is the way I want to travel’,” he says. “The average duration for a business trip on Airbnb is longer than a normal trip, which in New Zealand might be around six days. It’s a little longer when people are traveling for work.”

So, think you have an experience worth listing on the platform alongside learning to ride a vintage penny farthing high wheel bike in Oamaru, or a Wellington, Cuba St culinary tour?

Unlike the trips part of Airbnb, which relies on the trust of the community, the experiences are carefully vetted by the company. So while you can put yourself forward, there’s no guarantees you’ll make the cut – but it’s worth a shot.

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