The Curated Travel Experience


The Curated Travel Experience


By Sam Barry

Ten years ago when Airbnb was launched, it was a solution to the problem of how to pay rent during the Great Recession. In the past 10 years, it has proved to be much more than that. In 2016, it passed Hilton in total room stays, and its $30 billion market capitalization at that time was 50 percent higher than Hilton’s—despite the fact that Airbnb doesn’t own or operate the buildings in which guests stay. The company had a truly disruptive, highly profitable model, with strong revenue and low expenses.

But what made Airbnb successful wasn’t simply its business model. Guests didn’t only receive a place to sleep, Airbnb offered over 2,500 experiences in 35 cities around the world. The idea was simple: Stay like a resident, live like a local. Go to places tourists don’t know about.

Experience what life is really like in your destination. The idea was so successful it spawned a new business, Airbnb Trips, which CEO Brian Chesky announced a year ago.

As the company’s website describes it, Trips combines “where you stay, what you do and the people you meet all in one place. Trips is a people-powered platform designed to make travel both easy and magical. Trips [starts] with three key areas – Experiences, Places and Homes, with Flights and Services to be added in the future.” In other words, Trips moved Airbnb from an accommodation service to a curator of travel experiences. Trips initially included over 500 Experiences in 39 cities globally; today those numbers have blossomed to 3,100 Experiences in over 40 cities in 26 countries on six continents. Less a new business than an industry, Trips has created the curated trip.

Trips has spawned hundreds of boutique travel agencies that offer “micro” travel experiences, which means doing less in a trip, but doing it more deeply; seeing more of less, versus macro travel which allows you to see a little bit of a lot. The consumer of micro travel? The Millennial, that elusive, often mythologized explorer for whom every major hotel brand seems to be reinventing the hospitality experience. But Airbnb seems to have solved the puzzle: An astonishing two-thirds of Airbnb Experiences guests are Millennials.


Generally speaking, Millennials prefer experiences. Twenty-nine percent of Experiences were related to food and beverage, while arts and culture accounted for 14 percent. Other popular Experiences include sports, lifestyle, nature, music and entertainment.

If Millennials are the driver behind the outbreak of micro-travel, you’d have to expect there would be an app for that. And there are. Many. SIdekix, for instance, allows you to explore Los Angeles on excursions curated by locals. Cool Cousin, Walc, Localeur, and Memrise are other apps that allow you to see your travel destination through the eyes of locals.

And if you’re not a Millennial, and perhaps embrace a more analog version of travel than following suggestions through an app, one of the many new travel agencies like The Curated Travel might be for you.

The Curated Travel asks you to complete an online questionnaire about the experiences you’re looking for and where you’d like to have them. Once you submit your answers, the company provides a quote; once you approve the quote, The Curated Travel handles everything. They create an itinerary just for you, book your trip, and provide you with a comprehensive plan including where to stay, what to see, where to eat and drink, and all the logistics. The company has curated travel to places such as South America, Amsterdam and The Puglia region of Italy.

As time becomes an increasingly precious commodity and experiences and making memories together continues to represent our preferred way to spend money, personalized travel experiences should proliferate. No matter how you want to initiate your relationship with a curator, or what types of experiences you want to plan your trip around, there’s a travel experience of a lifetime out there waiting for you.

Sam Berry

Sam Barry is a former principal with Gensler, where he led a Brand Design studio in Washington, DC and a Lifestyle (retail and hospitality) studio in Atlanta, €”and former Director of Marketing for Shaw Contract and Shaw Hospitality. Today, Sam and his wife Kelly own Innovatude, a brand and marketing strategy and design boutique focused on innovation in the built environment. Sam’€™s focus is on helping product manufacturers, developers and building owners navigate turbulent times to find points of leverage to forge competitive advantage and significant growth. Sam lives in Atlanta with his wife and two daughters.