Airbnb recently announced that they are partnering with the biotech firm,23andMe, to give heritage travel recommendations into their customers. It is no wonder that Airbnb would take advantage of a rising trend that directly relates to their industry. Market research showed that “heritage travel” is on the rise. An April study commissioned by Airbnb, which included 8,000 participants from eight countries, found that more than 50% of Americans have traveled to at least one country of their ancestry. As have 89% of Indian people and 69% of French people.
“We empower 23andMe customers to learn about themselves and their ancestry through their unique genetic code,” said 23andMe CEO and co-founder Anne Wojcicki. “Working with Airbnb, a leader who is reimagining travel provides an exciting opportunity for our customers to connect with their heritage through deeply personal cultural and travel experiences.”
The process of how this is chosen is that you take the DNA test through 23andMe and wait three to five weeks for your results, which you’ll get back with suggestions for Airbnb rentals and “experiences” in the countries your ancestors are from. Airbnb will also have “dedicated pages that correspond with 23andMe’s genetic populations,” according to a press release. These genetic populations include getaway locations in Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and West Asia, Central America and Mexico, South America, East and South Asia, and the Caribbean and Europe.
“At Airbnb, we believe that authentic travel experiences help you connect with local cultures and create a sense of belonging anywhere in the world—and what better way to do that than traveling to your roots?” Airbnb co-founder and chief product officer Joe Gebbia said. “We’re proud to team up with 23andMe, the leader in helping people learn about their genes and ancestry, to make it easier for travelers to plan trips as unique as their DNA.”
23andMe isn’t the first of the genetics world to get into the travel industry. In 2017, AncestryDNA partnered with Go Ahead Tours to provide genealogy-themed guided tours. It has since expanded its program, offering genealogy cruises.
While this may sound like a great idea to some, many have raised concerns about the selling of genetic data to companies such as Airbnb. They worry about how much of that data they will be able to see and how it will be used.
But as the program is set up, it seems Airbnb is able to see where customers likely believe their ancestors used to live once they’ve clicked through to the suggested destinations. If this is a concern, luckily there are other ways to visit heritage destinations without having your genetic data used.