Written by Alexis Goldberg,
Last Modified: 16th March 2017

If you had a friend visiting from overseas, where would you take them to show them the best of your country? According to the boss of Airbnb, it probably wouldn’t be the places that the tourist industry are taking us. He believes that new tourism models need to develop, and overseas home-owners are uniquely placed to deliver them.

Parisians don’t join the queue at the Eiffel Tower on their day off and neither should tourists.

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Launching his new app, Guidebooks, Airbnb chief Brian Chesky said yesterday: “Travel has gotten a little sick. No matter what you’re doing, you’re usually doing the things that locals would never do.” Parisians don’t join the queues at the Louvre or Eiffel Tower on their day off, he says, and neither should tourists. Guidebooks is a new service that goes “beyond the home”, with recommendations from the property owner on local activities, events and places.

France - Quiet french countryside

Beautiful holiday home, unless you came for the nightlife.

That might be a local cooking class, or a walking tour, a hipster bar, or a tea shop, a secluded beach or a children’s adventure park. Visitors have a wildly different requirements and Airbnb aims to match the clients’ interests to what is in specific neighbourhoods. “The importance of matching is even more specific to the travel industry, where people traveling to an entirely new destination are making particularly uninformed choices,” said Mr Chesky.

Guidebooks will enable property owners to sell their neighbourhood to prospective visitors

The new app will enable property owners to sell their neighbourhood to prospective visitors according to what is on offer there. So, for example, if your French property is in a neighbourhood with lots for young children to do then the families will be directed to you, rather than those who are more interested in bars and nightlife. That may sound obvious, but on most rental services at present all visitors have to go on is an address and a photo. Guests are largely in the dark until they arrive at a destination. For owners of home overseas, many of whom help to finance their properties with rentals, the ability to target a particular type of guest can only increase revenue in the long term. A British homeowner in Montpellier, for example, will be able to reach the people that he or she feels would most enjoy a holiday there. That should increase both return custom and word-of-mouth recommendations.

The tourist industry is struggling to counter the disruption of the new “sharing economy”, where people simply rent out rooms in their own homes to tourists. While in Spain the authorities have attempted to clamp down on home rentals with severe fines, one French hotel group has decided that if you can’t beat them, you can at least buy them out. Europe’s largest hotel group, the Paris-based Accor, recently paid €148million to buy out Onefinestay, an upmarket version of Airbnb.

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