TO THE MATTRESSES

Airbnb and Marriott are turning to sumo wrestling and violins in battle for guests

Airbnb and hotels are locked a new battle: who has the best neighborhood know-it-alls?

Last November, Airbnb unveiled Trips, a platform that offers tours and activities led by locals. Offerings include Tuscan truffle hunts and a visit to a small violin-making workshop in Paris.

Now, Marriott, the world’s largest hotel company, sees your burlesque class and nipple-tassel workshop and raises you a sumo-wrestling session.

Marriott International announced Tuesday (March 21) that it is investing in PlacePass, a Massachusetts-based company that offers more than 100,000 tours. Marriott did not disclose the size of the investment.

It’s an easy way to get guests to spend more than just on a bed for a night, something both Airbnb and Marriott want.

There are many differences between the two platforms, even though Marriott’s description of PlacePass as a provider of “authentic local experiences” sounds similar to Airbnb-speak.

PlacePace has plenty of traditional sightseeing tours that are run by larger operators, whereas Airbnb’s often entail quirky activities run by locals. But PlacePass is far more established and has broader offerings than Airbnb.

For its part, Airbnb is aggressively expanding in the world’s most populous country, as it continues to face crackdowns from local governments in the US and Europe. Airbnb said in a statement today (March 22) that is is launching Trips in Shanghai, with offerings such as a behind-the-scenes look at performers of the Kunqu style of opera. In addition, Airbnb said that it is tripling its workforce in China this year, and that the number of stays by Chinese travelers to its listings worldwide total 5.3 million to date. Airbnb will also rebrand itself in China as “Aibiying,” or 爱彼迎, which in Chinese sounds like to “welcome each other with love.”

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