Geocoding company What3words has partnered with Airbnb to list some of the world’s most remote locations on its international platform. Marisa Cannon reports
Available on both iOS and Android, What3words divides the planet into a virtual grid made up of 3 metre x 3 metre squares, assigning each square with a unique three-word address generated by an algorithm and giving a navigable location to places that don’t have internationally intelligible addresses, or any address at all.
The three-word addresses are far simpler, easier to remember and share than complex GPS co-ordinates and are proving valuable for people living in slums, for example, or who are nomadic.
They also allow you to identify precise locations – “filled.count.soap”, for instance, will take you to the entrance of What3words’ London office.
Airbnb is using What3words to promote sustainable tourism to off-the-beaten-track destinations, beginning with Mongolia, where travellers can visit nomadic Dukha reindeer herders in the Taiga forest, or a Kazakh family in Altai Tavan Bogd National Park.Although most of Mongolia’s pasturelands are unaddressed, the new partnership will allow explorers to pinpoint extremely isolated spots, meeting the reindeer herders at a three-word address (earlier this year it was “settings.holly.stereo”) and ascend the mountain to the camp at “evaluate.video.nails” either by reindeer or horse.
Once there, travellers will be immersed in day-to-day life, herding and milking reindeer, cooking traditional dishes and making crafts.“It is very hard for tourists to find us, and for us to explain the location when we have limited mobile network access,” say reindeer herders and Airbnb hosts Otgonbayar and Zorigt Dukha.
“We have to explain the address as ‘pass those mountains… and then pass the river’. Tourists can now find us easily with a three-word address and experience Taiga lifestyle through Airbnb.
“When we move to our autumn place from our summer location, we find our new three-word address and share it with our co-host in the city via message or phone call when we have mobile signal. My co-host then updates our three-word address on Airbnb.”The world’s first Airbnb x What3words listing sees guests hosted in a traditional teepee deep in the Taiga forest in Northern Mongolia. Accommodation includes two wooden beds, sleeping bags and an open-fire stove for heating and cooking.
Cameron Sinclair, social innovation lead at Airbnb, said: “Airbnb is excited to partner with What3words and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Mongolia to drive sustainable tourism and economic empowerment, while promoting the unique hospitality and culture so intrinsic to the country.
“In Mongolia, a lack of traditional street addressing and nomadic way of life have prevented locals from welcoming Airbnb guests into their homes. Our partnership delivers an innovative way to provide hosts with an accurate and reliable address while constantly on the move, and creates new livelihood opportunities for nomadic and rural communities in Mongolia and around the world.”
Similarly, Black Tomato recently introduced its Blink collection of rare experiences and trips, offering a “never-to-be-repeated” experience in Bolivia last October that gave travellers access to secluded parts of the world’s largest salt flats, hot air balloon rides and private flights over the Andes. It didn’t officially partner with What3words but as anyone can use the app for free, it would be easy to look up the address of wherever the campsite was.