SAN FRANCISCO — The home-sharing app Airbnb is pushing into local reviews and recommendations, putting it increasingly into competition with services like Lonely Planet, Yelp and local tourism websites.
The company, based in San Francisco, on Tuesday began offering Guidebooks, a feature that lets those who rent out their homes on Airbnb share information about their neighborhood’s best restaurants, bars and attractions, including local spots that might not be found on travel websites or guides, all in the Airbnb app.
Guidebooks’ aim is to let people “live like a local,” Brian Chesky, the chief executive of Airbnb, said in an interview.
People who use Airbnb previously had to leave the app to find local event and dining information using search engines, travel websites and local review services. But Airbnb’s new feature means people can now eschew Yelp, Facebook, Google and other sites that have all longed to control the connection between consumers and local businesses.
Guidebooks also helps Airbnb address one of its biggest puzzles — how best to match hosts and guests so that both want to continue using the home-sharing service. That puzzle is increasingly something Airbnb wants to solve, especially as it tries to appeal to business travelers and families who have vastly different needs from the younger travelers who slept on sofas and in spare rooms when the start-up began.
Personalization and matching are important because the Internet gives customers an overwhelming amount of information. “The importance of matching is even more specific to the travel industry, where people traveling to an entirely new destination are making particularly uninformed choices,” Mr. Chesky said.
The app clusters listings by neighborhood, and Guidebooks will characterize each area for people who may prefer a family-friendly neighborhood or one near a central business district to one that is filled with late-night revelers.
Airbnb, which is privately held, has been valued at more than $24 billion by investors. That valuation is predicated on the idea that many more people will use the service, which lists more than two million homes in more than 190 countries. More than 80 million people worldwide have stayed with an Airbnb host.
Some Airbnb hosts, like Paul Schirmer in suburban Cincinnati, say they already provide guests with a binder that includes basics like the Wi-Fi password of their home, along with information on popular local restaurants, parks and shops.
Mr. Schirmer said having that sort of information in the Airbnb app could make his listing more attractive because many people like to stay in an Airbnb “to live in a neighborhood, relax, make dinner and not feel pressure to eat out every night.”
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