Airbnb has launched a platform for online and virtual experiences, allowing hosts to still make an income despite travel bans across the globe.

Following the announcement of the global pandemic by the World Health Organization, Airbnb paused all its experience offerings – products where hosts offer tours or activities. “Because experiences are so much based on one-on-one interaction, it made sense to stop them,” said Country Manager of Airbnb in sub-Saharan Africa, Velma Corcoran.

She said hosts were asking for other ways to make an income, which had led Airbnb to launch online experiences as an opportunity for hosts to offer the same experiences via the Internet.

Corcoran said she had participated in an online cooking experience with a host in San Francisco, just one of the many experiences available on the platform. Others include virtual music concerts, tours of historic houses, online yoga and art classes.

“Airbnb is uniquely placed in that we’re flexible enough to accommodate the trends,” said Corcoran of the online platform’s adaptability.

Founder and CEO of Rainmaker Digital, Thomas Mueller, believes virtual tourism will increase during and after COVID-19, as people will have less disposable income, thus limiting physical travel, at least initially.

At Rainmaker Digital, Mueller creates 360-degree tours to replace the typical brochures used in marketing and he believes there is a way forward for tourism in the virtual space. “It stimulates a demand for travels, and helps build that travel dream.”

He also noted that virtual and online experiences would appeal to the younger generations that are starting to travel now.  

Tourism Update asks all suppliers who are offering virtual experiences to contact us on editor@tourismupdate.co.za and provide us with information on the technological adventures you provide.