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Airbnb’s new mobile apps try to eradicate drive-by tourism

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Airbnb has redesigned its mobile apps around a new campaign geared to help improve traveling abroad, specifically by condemning how big tourist crowds have ruined popular destinations. CEO Brian Chesky, speaking at the company's San Francisco headquarters, said the initiative, called "Live There," is aimed at providing an alternative to the traditional tourism industry.

Now, Airbnb's iOS and Android apps will try and pair guests with hosts and neighborhoods that match their profile, as well as providing detailed guidebooks crafted by Airbnb hosts. More generally, the campaign will fashion Airbnb as the more serendipitous and trendy way to travel.

"People said they travel on Airbnb because they want to live like a local."

"86 percent of people said they travel on Airbnb because they want to live like a local," Chesky said. "We’re not here to change travel, but we want to change the way you live through travel." He spent the first portion of the event detailing how so-called "drive-by tourism" has tainted the act of traveling, with suffocating and selfie-taking crowds at major destinations turning vacations into alienating and exhausting experiences. Chesky says the company wants to use Airbnb's platform to help people explore a new place and not just cross items off a list.

The features are live today in select cities and will continue arriving well into the summer. For Airbnb, which has more than 2 million listings in 191 countries around the world, setting its sights on the travel and tourism industries is a sensible next step. The startup, now valued just north of $25 billion as of last December, knows full well from clashing with the hotel industry that it has to convert people by appealing to its service's strengths as a cheaper, more memorable way to travel. So Airbnb is putting a considerable amount of money and effort into a marketing blitz for the "Live There" campaign, including numerous TV spots to promote the new features.