Just because you can’t travel, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn Irish dancing, master fortune telling or cook a traditional meal with a family in Morocco. With the on-going Covid-19 pandemic forcing people to stay at home, Airbnb has launched a platform called Online Experiences offering live Zoom classes with people around the world. Jenny Southan reports

Described as “a new way for people to connect, travel virtually and earn income during the COVID-19 crisis”, Airbnb’s live Online Experiences allow hosts to generate a little extra money at a time when people can’t travel and previously booked stays in peoples’ homes have had to be cancelled.

Airbnb was quick to tap into the experiential travel trend with the launch of Airbnb Experiences back in 2017, and once again it is proving that it is ahead of the curve in terms of delivering what people want.

At the moment there are more than 50 Online Experiences that give “unprecedented access to inspiring hosts” from more than 30 different countries. Over the coming months, “thousands more” experiences will become available. Classes last for about one or two hours and cost between £10 and £30, approximately.

With millions of people stuck at home with less to entertain them than normal, Online Experiences are a great way of learning new things and connecting with others, as well as making money – all via Zoom video-calls that are made in real-time. Once you book, you’ll receive an email with a link and details of how and when to join. They are typically group sessions for about ten people but private tuition is also available.

Airbnb Online Experiences

What kinds of classes can you sign up for?

There are all sorts of things to sign up for – you can try meditation with Buddhist monks, virtual visits with the dogs of Chernobyl, cooking with a Moroccan family, learning the secrets of magic, making coffee with a professional coffee taster, and bartending with experts.

Other Online Experiences include Learn to Cook Mexican Salsas in Mexico City, Join a Rollerskating Dance Party in Brooklyn, make Grandma’s Pasta in Rome, sign up for an Interior Design Workshop in San Francisco, Sketch with a NYC Artist, Make the Perfect Chinese Steamed Bun in Singapore and watch a Korean beauty tutorial with a TV Host in Seoul.

There are also expert hosts from the world of fitness, such as Olympic medalists Alistair Brownlee and Lauren Gibbs. With Airbnb Online Experiences you can try a HIIT workout, learn about nutrition with a Bobsledder or even take a virtual bike tour.

Airbnb Online Experiences

What is the user experience like?

One reviewer who tried the “dogs of Chernobyl” tour in Ukraine, said: “This was an amazing and unique experience, it really felt like we were there in person, and connected with the environment. Was such a surreal experience being in a Zoom meeting with new friends all around the world interacting with the dogs and the exclusion zone in Chernobyl.”

Another person who tried the “Sangria and Secrets with Drag Queens” in Portugal, said: “This was such a fun experience! A group of my friends did a private experience with Pedro and the rest of the queens and we had a great time. We not only learned about how to make sangria, but also learned a lot about the LGBT community and drag scene in Lisbon and got to talk a bit about our lives in Los Angeles or our travels around the world too.”

Catherine Powell, head of Airbnb Experiences, says: “Human connection is at the core of what we do. With so many people needing to stay indoors to protect their health, we want to provide an opportunity for our hosts to connect with our global community of guests in the only way possible right now, online.Airbnb Online Experiences

Connecting older people online

Catering to older people, Airbnb has also partnered with local organisations such as SAGE (the world’s largest and oldest organisation dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT older people) and Amigos de los Mayores (an organisation combating unwanted loneliness and social isolation in Spain) to curate free Online Experiences.

Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE, says: “Millions of elders aren’t able to go outside and risk their health due to the current crisis, and need activities to help them stay connected to the world around them. Through our partnership with Airbnb, SAGE is able to give older members of LGBT communities across the country an opportunity to not only meet other people, but also learn a new hobby and travel to nearly anywhere around the world, all from the safety of their home.”

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