Airbnb gets friendly with animals through Experiences

New Zealand Getaway and Horseplay (Auckland, New Zealand)

Having added Adventure offerings to its activities arm earlier this year, Airbnb is further widening its Experiences portfolio with the launch of Airbnb Animal Experiences, a brand-new category that seek to offer travellers “a fresh new way to connect with animals”.

The new initiative, with some 1,000 Experiences co-hosted by over 300 species and their human advocates, enables guests to “meet animals in places that allow for gentle observation and bring a sense of connection far beyond animal selfies or performances”, Airbnb said in a statement.

The latest venture from Airbnb follows TripAdvisor’s earlier announcement this week to end ticket sales to attractions that contribute to the future captivity of marine animals, signalling the greater attention global travel businesses are now putting on animal welfare.

Airbnb Animal Experiences, created in collaboration with World Animal Protection, is committed to protecting the welfare of animals and helping people appreciate their intrinsic value.

Airbnb’s animal welfare policy stipulates that there should be no direct contact with wild animals, including, petting, feeding, or riding them; working animals should never be overworked, and shall only carry a maximum of one rider and never more than 20 per cent of the animal’s weight; marine mammals should never be in captivity for entertainment; broader host business should not feature elephant rides, big cat interactions, illegal wildlife trade, sporting events such as canned and trophy hunting, as well as animals performing for entertainment; and no wild animals should be used as selfie props or be taught any negative training techniques.

Ranging from afternoon tea with sheep to multi-day safaris, Airbnb Animal Experiences are hosted by caring experts as an antidote to typical tourist attractions that are notorious for ethical concerns, the company said. Controversial activities like dolphin kissing or elephant riding will never be found in an Airbnb Experience, it added.

Alesia Soltanpanah, executive director, World Animal Protection, said: “We know people love animals and want to see and experience them when they travel, but we also know they most want to see animals in a setting that respects their well-being. This new animal welfare policy created in consultation with our animal welfare experts combined with the creativity and dedication of Airbnb will ensure that adventurers have many options to experience the beauty of animals in a way that considers their welfare first.”

Airbnb said that beyond helping people get to better understand animals and meet them in a new way, over 100 Airbnb Animal Experiences are Social Impact Experiences, cementing their commitment to animals in the long-term by directing all proceeds from bookings to nonprofits. Supporting causes such as conservation, animal rescue, and veterinary care, these Experiences help scale impact, foster empathy and include caring for rescued horses, seeing released macaws and spending a day with donkeys, it added.

Other notable Airbnb Animal Experiences will come to life both on and offline through an exclusive partnership with The Dodo, an American-based mobile animal-centric media brand.

Some examples of Airbnb Animal Experiences unveiled include having tea with sheep in Loch Lomond, the UK); meeting the dogs of Chernobyl in Slavutych, Ukraine; being a gibbon research assistant experience in Phuket, Thailand; and going on a safari with a Maasai guide in Nakuru, Kenya; among others.

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