Airbnb's new Animal Experiences is also ethically conscious
This article was originally published on Yahoo Money.
Animal lovers can rest assured that every animal experience booked on Airbnb, like paddle-boarding with corgis or skateboarding with a world record-holding bulldog, will be on the up and up.
On Thursday, the home-sharing platform announced a stricter animal welfare policy for animal experiences listed on its marketplace. The offerings can be found under its new Airbnb Animal Experience category dedicated to animal tourism. Airbnb Experiences are activities designed and hosted by locals in any given region.
Most of the existing animal experiences on the platform met the new guidelines, Airbnb told Yahoo Finance, but a small number had to bring their standards up to the code. Another minority were sunsetted and are no longer listed on the marketplace.
Going forward, listings will be removed if the experience doesn’t comply with the guidelines Airbnb created in conjunction with the nonprofit World Animal Protection, the company said.
Ethical animal tourism takes hold
The company said it aims to set a new standard for animal tourism and its move underscores a recent trend of travel and tourism online marketplaces holding themselves to a higher code of ethics.
For instance, TripAdvisor said Wednesday that it would no longer sell tickets on its marketplace to attractions like SeaWorld and similar venues that breed, buy or capture dolphins, porpoises, whales or other marine mammals for entertainment. In 2016, it severed ties with companies that provide physical experiences like petting tigers or riding elephants in captivity, or other acts considered demeaning to animals.
Airbnb’s new animal welfare policy prohibits direct contact with wild animals, overworking animals, elephant rides, big cat interactions, performing animals and marine animals in captivity for entertainment purposes.
Instead, all Airbnb Animal Experiences allow for “gentle observation,” Airbnb’s press release said, as to not overwhelm the animal and bring a sense of connection between the species.
“We know people love animals and want to see and experience them when they travel,” said Alesia Soltanpanah, executive director of World Animal Protection, in a press release about Airbnb’s new policy. “But we also know they most want to see animals in a setting that respects their well-being.”
The new animal experiences on Airbnb
First introduced in 2016, Airbnb’s Experiences has since ballooned to over 40,000 experiences across 1,000 cities worldwide. There are 1,000 Animal Experiences at its launch. About half are new to the marketplace, while the rest were existing experiences, Airbnb told Yahoo Finance.
The offerings run the gamut. You can hike Runyon Canyon with rescue dogs for $45 a person or chill out with alpacas in Denver for $35 a person. In Hawaii, you can cuddle cows for $75 a person.
In some cases, all proceeds from bookings will be donated to nonprofits dedicated to conservation, animal rescue, and veterinary care.
Airbnb believes the new experiences will resonate with its value-conscious urban travelers who may feel disconnected from nature in their everyday lives.
“Life is better with animals, but for many busy people, looking at them through a screen is the closest they can get,” said Brian Chesky, Airbnb CEO and co-founder in a company release. “With Airbnb Animal Experiences, locals and travelers are just a few clicks away from being alongside them in the real world.”