I shared that I would write about the pros and cons of making friends in the community you manage, but I have decided to talk about Community Bonding with Airbnb this week. In January, I needed to come up with a monthly session for our community that would do the following:
- Give members a chance to relax and experience something together; virtually, that would build camaraderie.
- Offer a fun experience that also has a skills-based or educational element.
- Spend budget that we hadn’t been spending because of suspending in-person events .
Since that time, I have completed seven monthly sessions, and have learned a lot. I will write about those learnings at another time, because today I want to talk about Airbnb Online Experiences.
First off, I want to say that I’m not too fond of Airbnb for lodging purposes. That opinion may be shocking coming from someone who manages community, mainly because Airbnb touted building community around the world as one of the benefits of their platform.
My personal Airbnb experiences range from filthy, hair-filled sheets upon arrival to having a vole run across my face in the middle of the night. Not to mention a neurotic property owner who made me call them to promise I wouldn’t smoke on their property after I signed a document saying I wouldn’t do so (I am not a smoker), to an owner who went MIA when water was pouring out of an AC unit and down into the storefront below.
Because of my experience with Airbnb, I didn’t want to use their online experiences for the community I manage, but they were so interesting I couldn’t let my bias get the best of me. And I am glad I didn’t.
Over the past four months, I have planned or engaged in four different online experiences:
- The Barcelona Espadrilles Workshop: A 60-minute session where you meet the owners of Hand Made Barcelona, and they teach you the history of espadrilles, show you how they make them, and you get to design your pair of espadrilles, and they make and ship them to your home.
- Mexican Street Tacos with a Professional Chef: A 90-minute session with a chef in Mexico City where you learn to prepare tacos from scratch, including the tortillas.
- Pasta with the Grandmas: A 90-minute session with a Nonna in Palombara Sabina, Italy, where she teaches you how to make homemade tomato sauce and pasta.
- Traditional Indian Rug Weaving Workshop: A 90-minute session where you meet a family in Jodhpur, India, and they show you how they have made handmade rugs for generations. You get to see their workshop and ask any questions you have. They present their available rugs at the end of the experience, and you get to pick a rug, and it arrives 10-days after the session.
The above is not an exhaustive list by any means of what Airbnb virtual experiences offer and you can check out all of their online adventures HERE. Having said that, here are my top pros and cons of Airbnb Online Experiences.
Pros of Airbnb Online Experiences:
- Hosts are highly communicative. Every single host has been on top of bookings and responds quickly if there are any questions.
- Every session went off without a hitch. Well, except for the rug-making session. A drunk driver hit an electric pole outside of the property during our session, and the family lost power. However, no one was hurt, and they could engage their generators to finish the session.
- The sessions are relatively cheap. The sessions I booked were as low as $25 per attendee up to $100 for the sessions where you receive something via mail.
- You can book for private groups. Many online experiences offer to join with strangers, but you can book a private group. However, there is usually a minimum cost for doing so.
- You meet hosts from around the world. I haven’t traveled out of the country since February 2020 and while these experiences don’t replace travel, each session was a great escape for me and our members.
- These sessions are highly interactive. Airbnb most likely has expectations on how the facilitators interact with the guests. Each session I booked or attended, the facilitators made us feel welcome and engaged with every single person on the session.
- The cooking sessions are fantastic. Despite sharing my chaotic cooking style with our community members, the sessions were fun and comprehensive. The facilitators were able to visually check in with all of us and correct any issues. Plus, both sessions produced delicious home-cooked food, which I have cooked since the sessions.
- The quality of merchandise provided is excellent. The two sessions I attended where we received espadrilles and rugs, all items were of high quality. Also, there is an added bonus of being able to connect with the artisans who made them.
- It provides an excellent opportunity for gathering content for a community event recap. Whether it’s espadrilles or tacos, everyone loves taking pics of their experience, and they love sharing the content. So it’s an excellent way for me to plug the community and this event, every month.
- Each session has tons of Airbnb reviews. I was able to sort through all of the reviews of experiences I was interested in to make the best decision for our community. Also, because I didn’t 100% trust Airbnb to provide quality sessions, these reviews eased my mind, and I came around to using the platform.
Cons of Airbnb Online Experiences:
- Group interaction is limited. One of the most significant pieces of feedback we have received is these sessions are great, but our attendees feel like they aren’t making 1:1 connections with other community members on the sessions. I have tried to fix that by adding attendees to a separate Slack channel to chat with the other attendees before and after the session. This tactic has helped, but it hasn’t wholly fixed the issue.
- Grocery reimbursement is tricky. We usually provide all materials for in-person cooking events. However, our members cannot expense food, and I don’t have time to organize grocery delivery to members worldwide. To fix this, I have offered $25 gift cards for food delivery to thank members for attending, which went over well. However if the grocery list is under $10, I skip the gift cards.
If you are looking for fun online experiences that are more unique than the standard online team building offerings out there, I highly recommend Airbnb Online Experiences. Will I change my mind about Airbnb lodging in the future? Probably not. However, once I feel safe to travel again, I would love to book an in-person Airbnb Experience, especially since most of these hosts had in-person sessions before the pandemic.
Now, please enjoy some pictures from our Airnbnb Online Experiences: