Airbnb Experiences, A Candid Review: Improv In Action6 min read

airbnb experiences - improve in action

In this post, I am going to talk about a few things related to Airbnb Experiences:


  1. Background of what we know as Airbnb Experiences today
  2. My experiences as a tester back in 2015-6
  3. My review of Improv in Action, the Airbnb Experience I signed up for


In 2014, Airbnb started working on a secret program called ‘Magical Trips’. Over the next few years (including 2017) it would become Brian Chesky’s main focus.


Airbnb Experiences used to have the code name 'Magical Trips'. Click To Tweet


It took many forms over those first few years including, my favorite, Local Companion, which allowed a visiting guest to ask a local anything (parking info, best views in SF, what to do for a date night, etc.) through the app and get a speedy response. As an employee, I was able to use it and found some hidden gems in my own neighborhood! Unfortunately, they discontinued it.


In 2015/2016, I was one of the hosts who tested the new ‘experiences’ platform by offering two experiences:

  • A bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito and taking the Ferry back
  • A motorcycle ride photo tour of all the sights of SF


This was a very early version of what you see today. It was quite amateur and clunky. The guests didn’t pay anything but got a free trip to SF so many did not even show up.


One of my groups was paired up with people of different languages so communication was an issue. I was not hopeful for the future, but not for the obvious reasons.


To me, a magical experience was due to the people you shared an activity with, not the activity itself. Airbnb was focused on the activity and not pairing up similar folks for the same activity. Hence, I had two people who did not speak the same language on my experience. Not magical.


Another challenge I felt Airbnb had and will have is the whole reason why the Big Bus tours even exist, the very thing Airbnb Experiences is trying to avoid. The Big Bus started off as a guy offering tours (ie Experiences) and it got more popular over the years until it got bigger and bigger. Eventually, it became a mass-produced tourist activity because that is most profitable.


I am hopeful Airbnb can figure out a way to stay true to their original concept.


Anyways, those are the negatives. Let’s move on to my Airbnb Experience, Improv in Action hosted by Chris on June 16, 2017, from 2-5pm. Here is the cover photo of the Experience on Airbnb:

Airbnb experience - Improve in action


You might be surprised after reading the first two paragraphs, but this is going to be a glowing review. I was impressed ever since I opened the app on my phone to choose my experience.


The layout had improved drastically from a few months ago. Airbnb has made incremental improvements and I felt the app is finally useful!


I was finding the Airbnb Experiences were laid out nicely and the Places tab had some of its own treats – Cafes you can work from, unique bars, late-night eats, and much more.


There are even self-guided walking tours you can do via the app. Even as a local I could now use the app in my own city. This is just how I felt about Local Companion (though, I still think LC was better!).


After some deliberation I clicked on Improv in Action on my phone app and here is what I saw (from left to right as if you are scrolling from top to bottom on your phone):

airbnb experience - improv in actionairbnb experience - improv in actionairbnb experience - improv in actionairbnb experience - improv in action


The ribbon means it is a Social Impact Experience and 100% of the proceeds go towards a cause (Airbnb does not charge any fees either). It includes 3 hours of instruction, a drink, and a ticket to a BATS show that weekend or the following. This particular Airbnb Experience (as is true for many, at least now when it is not as popular) only had availability a couple times per month, but it was easily identifiable.

airbnb experience - improve in action


When I tried to pay, Airbnb would not accept my money! Turns out, even though I had referral credit, it cannot be applied to Airbnb Experiences. It took me about 30 minutes to figure this out as I tried different dates and different cards, then called Airbnb customer service (they call it Airbnb Customer Experience or CX).


Also, promotional credits cannot be applied to accommodation reservations under $75. I learned that on the call.


The $80 sticker price for this Airbnb Experience did give me a little shock. Keep reading to find out if I thought it was worth the price…


airbnb experiences - improve in action




Once Airbnb finally took my money, I find they had devised a super-secure system to ensure you are who you say you are….


airbnb experience - improve in action


Read about Airbnb's new 'Selfie' technology via Airbnb Experiences. Click To Tweet


After you confirm your identity with a selfie, you can find the Experience in the Trips section of your Airbnb app.

airbnb experience - improve in action


Then, Airbnb sends a message to your guest inbox. About 30 minutes before arrival, they send you another helpful message with the address…

airbnb experience - improve in action


Only problem is, this message disappeared right at 2pm, my Airbnb Experiences start time. I was late, and the location was not straightforward and not someplace I had been before.  Be sure to take note of the address beforehand as it is not easy to find after the fact.


Then, you will receive an email from Airbnb confirming everything in one place:

airbnb experiences - improve in action

airbnb experiences - improve in action


The instructor, Chris, had messaged me through the app a few days prior letting me know that I am the only one scheduled and offered me the chance to reschedule when more people signed up.


I decided to continue with a solo Experience because I figured I would get a one-on-one session. It turned out great! I was really impressed from the first exercise he had me do.


It stretched my brain in ways it is not normally stretched which is EXACTLY what I was hoping to get out of it. The review I wrote for him is below, but I do think one other person would be ideal for a minimum on this particular Experience.

My review of Airbnb experiences


It is such a new idea and in so few destinations, it makes sense they are having trouble filling in. Or, does it? Is my original prediction coming true? Time will tell. What do you think?


Have you taken an Airbnb Experience? How did it go? Click To Tweet
I'm Danny, the Airbnb expert

About Danny Rusteen:

Starting in 2012, Danny has been an Airbnb employee, Superhost, and Airbnb property manager. Danny lives in Airbnbs (1,000 nights). As a guest, Danny has traveled to 33 countries and sifted through thousands of Airbnb listings, so he knows what makes a listing stand out and how to offer a world-class experience to your guest. Follow his journey.

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