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Airbnb hints at becoming an end-to-end travel platform

Airbnb has hinted at intentions to become a complete “end-to-end” trip experience, offering a new platform that would provide travelers with more than just the ability to book rooms.

Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia has outlined plans to consolidate the international travel market. “Our ambitions extend far beyond accommodations,” he says.

“The average vacation takes upwards of 25 hours to plan and put together, from flights and rental cars, accommodations, split payments with friends. There are all these different components.

“I think people use about 10 different apps to coordinate an entire trip, so we ask the question, Why? Couldn’t you have one place to go to put your whole trip together?”

The company that turned the global hotel industry on its head no longer wants to influence just where you stay, but also what you do while on holiday. The launch of Experiences in November of last year, which is a new section of the platform that connects travelers with locals who offer activities such as walking tours, could put the company in competition with tour companies such as Contiki.

The idea of reducing the need for 10 travel apps to just one suggests the company may be looking at the lucrative booking sector of the industry, potentially pitting it against giants such as Expedia and Webjet.

However, backlash from some apartment residents has triggered debate in multiple states about how to regulate the usage of Airbnb.

“I think a lot of our original detractors are now on the other side of the fence. From a regulatory standpoint, the more cities that come to understand us, the more they want to partner with us.

“There are more than 340 examples of cities we’ve sat down with and explained how our system works, how our reputation system works, how we can remove hosts from the site if we need to, and how we can facilitate the collection of tax income for tourist taxes to cities.”

Addressing tax concerns lobbed at tech almost all tech giants, including Google, the co-founder said “we love paying taxes, which is why we’ve worked with 340 cities to do that”.

But the major challenges to growth for Airbnb may not be entirely regulatory-based, according to research released earlier this month by Morgan Stanley, which outlines a “surprising slowdown in Airbnb adoption” in the US and Europe.

“Our AlphaWise survey data indicates Airbnb adoption has slowed, as the percent of travelers who used Airbnb over the last 12 months increased by only 330 basis points to 25 percent, a notable deceleration from the approximately 800 basis points increase in 2016,” a team of Morgan Stanley analysts wrote.

Two hurdles exist, the researchers say. First, the benefits of growing awareness are “topping out” in the US and Europe, sitting at an estimated 80 percent, and second, Morgan Stanley sees “privacy/security are material and growing barriers to adoption”.

Those barriers may be less of an issue in Australia, with Airbnb reporting 122,500 active listings in the country, a 40 percent year-on-year increase, and 4.8 million users.

The Seattle start-up says they are also toying with the idea of lending money to home buyers who promise to make a room available for rent on Airbnb for up to three years.