Airbnb Experiences pushes for profitability with expansion into live events

Today, Airbnb announced a notable expansion of its Experiences product: Concerts.

Travelers, as well as locals (a demographic that the company already targets with Experiences) can book concerts with musicians at intimate venues in many cities around the world.

While there may be whispers that Airbnb’s existing Experiences platform is underperforming, the company insists this isn’t the case.  and that Experiences will be profitable by 2019. This is after a massive investment in expanding to 1,000 cities.

What’s more interesting than the current state of affairs is how this move into live events take a cue from from behemoths like American Express, who have used perks as an extremely lucrative way to increase cardmember loyalty and perceived value.

Airbnb takes a page from Amex playbook

American Express has long offered exclusive perks to its cardholders. One of the most prominent perks is early access to concerts, as well as exclusive blocks of tickets just for American Express cardholders. By making these sorts of perks available to cardholders, Amex increases the stickiness of card usage — and keeps raking in the fees it makes on transactions.

Airbnb Concerts will be tied closely to the Superguest program the company recently announced. While not fully rolled out yet, Superguest is basically a loyalty program that rewards regular Airbnb customers with a special tier of perks.

Superguests will have first access to the most in-demand concerts — an example given by the company is Vance Joy, an artist popular on streaming services, who will host a series of intimate concerts.

This then increases the overall stickiness of the Airbnb brand, turning travelers into ‘Airbnb people’ that are more likely to turn to Airbnb for multiple pieces of a given itinerary: a rental for a business trip, a home for a family reunion, or in-destination activities.

The.WAV, hosts of Afrohaus brunch, perform during a surprise Airbnb Concert.

The company says that it will expand beyond live music to also include other areas not traditionally considered part of ‘tours and activities’ or ‘in-destination,’ such as comedy shows and theater production. Rather than these events being simply re-merchandising of existing events, these offerings will be exclusively created and curated for the Airbnb platform.

The creative class halo

This really could be a boon for creatives in cities where Airbnb offers its Experiences, as it’s a new demand channel for creating new types of experiences that didn’t exist before. Given that it can be challenging for artists and musicians to find a reliable channel for engaging with fans, this outlet could be a major shift for artists and musicians at the earlier parts of their careers.

Focusing on the exclusivity of smaller events also gives Airbnb a creative class halo that reinforces its focus on the unique and quirky — like staying in an igloo for a night. This more firmly roots the Airbnb brand in the creative camp and gives it a clearer oppositional messaging to others in the travel and hospitality space. A branding truism is that the brands that own the cool factor usually perform well.

Even if Airbnb Concerts only increases the stickiness of its customers, the product will be a success. After all, Millennials (and most humans) really do enjoy experiences over things. If loyalty points loosen their grasp on active travelers, then this Amex-style rewards program could really play a massive role in how Airbnb plans to get to one billion guest arrivals by 2028.

The concerts have been in beta, and are now launched across a smattering of cities worldwide. The full keynote is below, recorded on site in San Francisco.

The writer’s travel and expenses were covered by Airbnb. Please read more about our ethics policy here

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