Lonely Planet Writer

Airbnb aims to give travellers unique urban experience with new 'City Hosts' program

In its latest bid to further differentiate themselves from the traditional hotel sector, Airbnb is testing a new computer program that allows travellers to experience a city through private tours of hidden gems and secret addresses.

Airbnb testing new 'City Host' program..
Airbnb testing new ‘City Hosts’ program.. Image by Gustavo da Cunha Pimenta / CC BY-SA 2.0

Launched in private beta version, “City Hosts” currently offers 36 experiences, each hosted by local experts in London, Paris, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Tokyo. Experiences include a tour of London’s Grime music scene with a record scout, kite surfing lessons from a pro in San Francisco and Vietnamese cooking classes with a Parisian chef.

According to TechCrunch, the website interface for City Hosts resembles Netflix and is simple to use, allowing guests to choose and book their experiences with ease.

Prices vary depending on the experience. The “Art Luminary” tour, which takes guests on an art-themed tour of Tokyo in the company of a local art curator, costs US$250 per head. For three hours across four days, participants will discover local art galleries and little-known restaurants, as well as meet local artists.

City Hosts appears to be the next step in Airbnb’s “Live There” campaign as the company looks to cement their reputation as a unique rental experience, championing exploring as a local rather than as a tourist. It’s an interesting shift from simply providing accommodation to offering travellers a more activity-focused method of choosing where they travel and how they explore.

To book a tour on City Hosts you have to stay at an Airbnb in the city. After you book an experience, Airbnb suggests some Airbnb rentals in the area. Some tours are shared with other Airbnb guests, while others you have all have all to yourself.