As we're pretty much grounded these days thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Airbnb has launched Online Experiences to help people to connect and travel virtually.

A woman playing a cello to an online audience via computer
Airbnb Experience guests can enjoy a virtual cello meditation class © Airbnb

The new initiative is the online version of Airbnb Experiences, which launched in 2016 to provide a different way for travellers to experience a destination by providing immersion into a host's passions and interests. It now aims to connect the global community to handcrafted activities in cities around the world, by offering online experiences via Zoom. These include meditation with Buddhist monks, Irish dancing masterclasses, virtual visits with the dogs of Chernobyl, cello meditation concerts and cooking with a Moroccan family.

A screenshot of people doing yoga online
Airbnb Experiences is offering virtual experiences © Airbnb

There are hosts from more than 30 different countries, including some of the most celebrated athletes in the world, such as Olympic medalists Alistair Brownlee and Lauren Gibbs. Those at home can enjoy a virtual HIIT workout, learn about nutrition with a bobsledder or take a virtual bike tour. Airbnb is providing hosts access to Zoom free of charge along with support services, to allow them to earn an income by bringing their virtual experiences to millions of guests worldwide.

Many people are working from home these days, and work colleagues who want to reconnect can bond by taking part in group activities like making coffee with a professional coffee taster. There are features for groups looking to celebrate birthdays or occasions privately, and there's an option to request specific dates for experiences like bartending with experts. To help those who are most isolated, such as older adults, Airbnb has partnered with local organisations around the world to help their communities learn a new skill.

A man doing a card trick
'The Secrets of Magic' is an online Airbnb Experience © Airbnb

“Human connection is at the core of what we do,” says Catherine Powell, head of Airbnb Experiences. “With so many people needing to stay indoors to protect their health, we want to provide an opportunity for our hosts to connect with our global community of guests in the only way possible right now - online.”

There are more than 50 virtual Airbnb Experiences already available with more due to come on stream, and they can be found here.

Keep up to date with Lonely Planet's latest travel-related COVID-19 news here.

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