Airbnb Experience vs. The Museum

Most references to Airbnb are focused on the disruption of the hotel industry over the past decade. However, as  AirBnB Experiences pop up around the world, I can’t help but wonder if this has the same potential to completely change the museum and cultural sector.

Museums exist to educate, inform, and entertain, whilst offering a social commons for cultural connections. They are among the top tourist attractions for every city as places to learn about world culture and art.  However, AirBnb Experiences is now offering a global platform for a one-to-one cultural visit that competes directly with the museum offering: knowledge, education, and experience.

For example, here are a few of the current “art” experiences on offer…

FK museum ex


With Airbnb Experience the options for cultural learning are personalised, participatory, and potentially unlimited.

And the list is potentially endless. You don’t need to wait for the museum opening hours. You don’t need to buy an audio-guide to understand the curator view of a collection. Instead, you choose your time, personalise your agenda talking directly with your host, and experience culture with a local.

How AirBnb Experience disrupts the museum

Museums and cultural organizations are seeking to confirm and increase their relevance, and to do this, they need to become more personal, and more participatory. It’s not about an expert dictating the history of the world on a museum wall. It has to be about an unrestricted exchange between people to bridge and bond across social groups.

Granted, museums also play a role in collecting and conserving the histories of humankind (for example, objects and collections or documentation of languages, music, dance) but the public function is more focused on informal dialogue and participation with the public.

Here are some of the ways that Airbnb creates a highly relevant cultural exchange, as inspiration for the museum of the future:

  • Informal unrestricted dialogue – there is no elite curation, the exchange is informal and unlimited directly between the visitor and the host.
  • Local expert – tours are with a local, whether an artist, musician, historian, chef, or local passionate about the theme.
  • Anytime, anywhere – flexible and accessible opening hours
  • Personalisation – opportunities to connect before the experience to customise it
  • Authenticity – no crowds, no tickets, this is a direct personal exchange
  • Evaluation – excellent feedback loops offered via the platform for comments and reviews.

Tips for museum managers:

Interestingly, individual Airbnb profiles are already starting to use museum names to authentic to offer such as the profile “Museo Frida Kahlo” for the Frida Kahlo Riviera Maya museum in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. This profile is supposedly sponsored by the museum itself. While I couldn’t verify this sponsorship, it is nonetheless an interesting example of the museum’s plausible integration into the social fibre of the city.

Here are some ways to make this an opportunity.

  • Encourage experiences and customized tours offered by your staff, members, donors, volunteers and supporters in their own time. Democratize the concept of the museum visit, and openly encourage using Airbnb Experiences as a platform.
  • Use these experience to build your online visitor presence and your following. Don’t forget that every online visitor is equal to a physical visitor.
  • Benefit from the data as inspiration. Use the data to refine your own activities. For example, see what Airbnb Experiences get the most visits. Can you use it as a source of trend-tracking and inspiration for your next exhibition?

Cover photo courtesy of FosterTravel