How the new “Local Experiences” platform on Airbnb benefits local communities in Jordan

Here’s how local communities can generate income from the new “ Local Experiences” platform on Airbnb.
Photo credit: Airbnb

The best way to get to know a place is through its people; that’s why facilitating a form of tourism that is led by and empowers the local communities is essential.

Tourists these days are shying away from the typical prepackaged travel itineraries and are seeking to engage in deeper emotional and personal experiences.

Experiential tourism involves a hand-on experience with a skilled local community member who leads travelers on an authentic, cultural and learning experience that is planned based on the tourists’ interests.

For the last couple of years, the USAID Jordan Local Enterprise Support Project (LENS) has been working on developing experiential tourism in Jordan. The process starts with identifying potential experience hosts, assessing them, testing the experiences they provide, and finally, linking them with tour operators and other travel businesses to bring in more customers.

For this purpose, USAID LENS has partnered with Airbnb; a popular online platform for booking accommodations whereby hosts open their homes to travelers to make extra income. Last year, Airbnb added a new element to connect travelers to engaging and immersive experiences in different cities around the world. Adding an option to book experiences allows travelers to experience a city as a local does, and gives the hosts a chance to become ambassadors for the communities they live in.

Interweaving tourism with community development

USAID LENS partnership with Airbnb helps hosts in Jordan, whether individuals or owners of small businesses to access new markets and eventually increase their revenues. This is great for hosts who live in rural communities where economic opportunities are limited.

Local travel experiences are about going beyond the usual touristic sites and allowing for deeper and more meaningful travelling. Experiences allow travelers to immerse themselves in local cultures, traditions and ways of living while supporting local communities.

As the demand grows for experiential travel, local communities begin to see their profession, knowledge and skills as a source of income; tourists are willing to pay money to learn how local people live and experience their culture through nature, food and art. This encourages the community to preserve their culture and utilize their knowledge and skills to generate income.

USAID LENS has connected Nedal, a local artist in the desert town of Azraq to Airbnb, to become part of the experiences offered through their website. As part of this experience, tourists can enjoy painting on ostrich eggs in Azraq, a small town in Zarqa Governorate in central-eastern Jordan, 100 kilometers east of Amman, the host Nedal, is a local artist who has been dedicated to the art of dotting on ostrich eggs for over a decade.

The experience duration is about 2 hours. It starts with an introduction while having a nice cup of thyme-infused tea, then with Nedal’s guidance, the tourist uses a pencil to draw on a piece of ostrich egg and then paint dotting using a thin brush to complete the drawing.

Another experience that USAID LENS partnered with Airbnb on is to learn how to make Labaneh Balls & Ceramics. The experience takes place in Iraq Al Amir which is located on the outskirts of the capital of Amman, with the guidance of Iraq Al Amir Women’s Association. Yusra, the head of the association, Ruweida and Khawla teach tourists how to make ceramic products and how to roll labaneh balls (a thick, strained yogurt eaten usually for breakfast with olive oil) to fill up a small jar that each tourist can take home.

These experiences benefit the hosts tremendously; it generates income for them with minimal cost, and on a larger scale it benefits the local economy because it offers a type of tourism that does not depend on external investments.

Applying social responsibility during travel

Experience travel focuses on the social impact that we as responsible travelers can leave on others; our involvement with local communities can improve the quality of local people’s lives while maintaining their traditions, cultures and way of life, which are the reasons behind our choice to pay for an experience with them.

As travelers, we have to consider the ways in which we influence and impact each place we choose to visit and the people we interact with. This shines a very bright light on our social responsibility towards local communities who can benefit directly from our travel choices.

Airbnb has demonstrated that people really do care about the international human experience, and that their experience platform is the key for travelers to apply the social impact experiences they are looking for.

In the end, all travelers have one thing in common; we are all looking to explore new places, experience new things, meet different people and as much as possible make a positive change, whether to ourselves or to the people we encounter. Experiential tourism enables us to transform a regular trip into an immersive, impactful and enjoyable trip full of experiences that will undoubtedly create long-lasting memories both for us and for the experiential hosts in local communities.

For more information on the USAID Jordan Local Enterprise Project and its activities, please visit www.jordanlens.org.

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