Katie Dill helped lead Airbnb’s late 2016 expansion from home-booking app to full-on travel concierge via the high-profile launch of its Trips platform. Airbnb now offers travelers the ability to book unique, memorable, site-specific experiences such as Thai fruit carving in Bangkok or hanging out with TV writers in Los Angeles, while a product called Places provides mobile, location-specific information (along with meetups and audio tours) so that users can enjoy their surroundings like a native. Dill’s challenge is to deliver a localized perspective at a global scale, making each Airbnb trip unique even as the service handles more than 100 million people worldwide.
How does Trips differ from Airbnb’s regular booking platform? "We do far more curation. People apply [to offer an experience through Airbnb], and we make sure their ideas are up to our standard. We also help them create their listing, including shooting a lot of videos, which we believe is important. When you take pictures of a home, you get a sense of that space, but you need video to capture what it looks like to sumo wrestle."
Why did you change the notifications in the Airbnb app to bold, full-screen reminders? "We call it our superhero. This app in your pocket contains an incredible amount of intelligence about you, so let’s offer information you need at the time you need it. There are all these moments of the customer’s journey that could be problematic, like remembering the address or figuring out the Wi-Fi password of a rental. We also want to use this full-screen notifier to let you know when there are events or a meetup going on down the street."
What role does the host play in developing Airbnb’s localized content? "If we think about all the guidebooks that our hosts have created—in San Francisco [alone], we have hundreds of thousands of recommendations about places to go from people who live here. Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Google will give you great information, but it’s probably going to leverage tourist insights, and you’ll go to the same place everyone else is going. We have a fantastic community of people who joyfully share what they know about their city. We’re leveraging that information."