Among Airbnb’s more than 4 million listings, this is, perhaps, the most meta listing of them all: a tour of Airbnb’s headquarters in San Francisco, with a company employee as your guide.
The offer, which first appeared on the site in late 2017, is one of Airbnb’s 30,000 “Experiences” listings, where travelers can book guided tours or other activities hosted by a local resident.
Visitors to Airbnb can choose from either a day-time tour or a night-time option with dinner on campus. (Not optional is the non-disclosure agreement they’ll be asked to sign.) Along the way, they will stop by the sculpture of Airbnb’s logo, walk past the greenery-covered “living” walls, and hear the origin story of how two college students struggling to make rent in San Francisco opened their living room to strangers in need of a place to stay who paid them to sleep on air mattresses. Visitors also will get to learn about the company’s culture and philosophy, all in about 1.5 hours.
Depending on which listing you choose, the tour costs $24 or $25—roughly the price of a museum ticket—with all proceeds going to a nonprofit. The philanthropy tie-in is part of the company’s recently implemented “Social Impact” experiences, where Airbnb hosts donate to a charity of their choice.
Silicon Valley tech companies rarely offer tours to the general public. But every year, hordes of “tech tourists” in California flock to the Facebook thumbs-up sign at the company’s entrance in Menlo Park, or Google’s Android sculpture garden in Mountain View.
These companies, frequently found on best-places-to-work-for lists, often provide extensive campus perks, from gourmet cafeterias to on-site doctors. They’re also known for designing their offices with flair.
For outsiders, there’s a fascination with the companies that run these ubiquitous products and services, and the work culture they’ve inspired.
As a corporate tourist attraction, Airbnb has a lot going for it. It has breathtaking interiors. It’s a company people want to work for. It’s a fast-growing startup that plans on going public in the near future. “The tours provide an opportunity for visitors to see where the Airbnb team works to accomplish our mission of creating a world where anyone can belong and to learn more about nonprofits making a difference in the world,” says Jessemin Sheyda-Losick, Airbnb’s social impact experiences lead.
The tourists—including college students, parents, engineers, designers, and entrepreneurs—are curious about a lot of things Airbnb, including the culture, interior design, and what life is like inside a major tech startup, according to reviews online. Some simply wanted to know more about a company that has provided them with more affordable travel options or an opportunity to rent out their home.
Management consultant Jordan Lance, an Airbnb superhost, says she took the tour because she wanted to know if Airbnb “was more of a facade or was it truly unique.”
She says the tour was worth it. In addition to the beautiful interiors, Lance says what stood out to her was the way in which the tour focused on hosts, whose photos and quotes line the walls of the office.
San Francisco-based technical recruiter and Airbnb host Ram Chirimunj says that during his tour, the company’s head of customer experience gave useful tips on how to be a host and provided quirky facts such as how the office rooms were inspired by people’s Airbnbs. From a recruiter’s perspective, Chirimunj says he’s thinking about how he might persuade a candidate from Google, for example, to consider a high-growth startup like Airbnb. “It felt a good return on my investment from a career perspective,” he says. Several designers, meanwhile, commented in reviews online that they were inspired by the building’s interior design.
With millennials prioritizing experiences over products, Airbnb has found a way to infuse its brand in every aspect of how it operates, including its listings.
Ilya Zarezenko, a host from Novosibirsk, Russia, told us via email that he took the tour because in addition to wanting to know more about the company’s history, Airbnb’s headquarters seemed a worthy spot for local sightseeing. “It has outstanding reviews and scores,” he notes. “Meanwhile it is the cheapest attraction in San Francisco, only [about] $20.”