ST. GEORGE — No longer just a way to find a home away from home, Airbnb has launched a new program in Utah that aims to connect tourists with community locals for workshops and off-the-beaten-path adventures.
The program, Airbnb Experiences, officially launched in Utah May 30 and offers around 50 opportunities to explore the state with the assistance of locally based hosts.
As of Friday, over a dozen Experiences are on offer in Southern Utah, ranging from wine-tasting in Cedar City to off-roading near LaVerkin to exploring a Butch Cassidy hideout in the backcountry near Panguitch.
The program was launched by Airbnb in partnership with the Utah Office of Tourism, which describes the initiative as a way to connect tourists with locals whose expertise can help provide “authentic” community experiences.
The average cost to participate in an Experience is about $85 per person. The Experiences in Southern Utah range from $27 per person for wine-tasting to $139 per person for a private tour of slot canyons east of Zion National Park for a group of six.
The private slot canyon tour, hosted by Orderville residents Micah and Julie Young, features a hike that would otherwise be off-limits to most tourists, save for the Youngs’ permitted access to private land.
The Youngs describe their Experiences offer as an opportunity to learn canyoneering while exploring Southern Utah’s natural beauty, stating the following in the tour’s description:
Other tour companies shuttle you in vans like cattle…We drive you in off road vehicles! Which means we go places that they can’t and we have a lot more fun getting there.
Another Southern Utah-based Experience, led by Carol Talus, a third-generation Navajo native, takes guests on an intermediate hike through Talus’ grandparents’ ancestral sheep camp. Guests will help tend sheep while exploring hidden canyons in Monument Valley.
“For me, it’s important to represent Navajo Nation, especially for the younger generations,” Talus said. “It’s important that my community share their stories and start their own businesses which will help them with job security.”
Indeed, job security is a major reason the Office of Tourism teamed with Airbnb for the Experiences program. The program falls in line with Gov. Gary Hebert’s 25k Jobs initiative, wherein the governor challenged Utah businesses to create 25,000 jobs throughout rural Utah within four years.
The Office of Tourism is touting the program as an opportunity to develop “microentrepreneurship” opportunities throughout the state.
Experiences hosts have the opportunity to monetize their unique skill sets and area knowledge just as a standard Airbnb host monetizes residential property.
“The Utah Office of Tourism has two key goals in this unprecedented Airbnb partnership – create more jobs in rural Utah and encourage tourists to get off the beaten path to discover the adventures, culture and people of Utah,” Vicki Varela, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism, said in a news release issued by the office.
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