Hi! We are Yutong & Yunan, two experience designers.

We saw the news that Airbnb is expanding its China office to localize the product. As two Chinese who love traveling and believe that Airbnb can improve Chinese travelers’ experiences, we decided to brainstorm ways for Airbnb to invite more Chinese travelers to the community. We are both 4th-year Graphic Design students at Rhode Island School of Design. In case you’ll be wondering, we are twins.

Design Challenge

How might Airbnb localize its product to invite world’s largest travel population into the Airbnb community?

Chinese travelers make up the world’s largest number of outbound travel population. Airbnb is growing fast among Chinese travelers, however there is still huge potential for Airbnb to connect more Chinese to the world.

Design Process

Scope

Focus

Online Research

Field Research

Affinity Mapping

Persona

Ideation

Wireframing

Prototyping

Reflection

2.5 weeks in studio

1 week travel to interview travelers and use Airbnb products

Chinese Travelers

Outbound Trips

iOS System

Research

Understanding Chinese Travelers

1. China has world’s largest number of outbound travelers and the number continues to grow exponentially.

2. Since majority of Chinese travelers are taking their first trips overseas, they lack experience in trip planning.

New Chinese travelers have little experience in travel planning and wish to have a one-stop-shop service. Unlike earlier generations of Chinese travelers, this new generation is younger, more independent and more adventurous. Their growing interest in local culture and adventure also increases the challenge for trip planning.

“Just booking the accommodations on the trip already made me feel like losing half of my life.”

— Damao, who took a 25-day trip on U.S. west coast with her husband

3. Chinese online travel products have not caught up with the speed of this fast growing outbound market.

We studied the existing products on the Chinese market. We realized that most of them focus on trips within Asia. There are limited choices for trips beyond Asia. Also, most products specialize in only one aspect of traveling, independent travelers have to piece together a trip from many different providers, which is time consuming and frustrating, especially for new travelers.

4. Chinese travelers are passionate and proud to share their travel experiences and tips publicly.

Because traveling is still new to most Chinese, travelers are eager to write and share their new experiences and insights. Since potential travelers also have the need for those tips and itineraries, travelogues are highly popular among Chinese travelers.

“I write this travelogue, on one hand is to record our first trip abroad, on the other hand to give some guidance for others. ”

— Nana wrote about her first trip abroad

5. 71% Chinese travelers plan trips on mobile. Most outbound travelers use iOS system.

Based on Chinese travelers’ digital habits, in this project we decided to focus on the iOS mobile application experience. (Source: Global Independent travel report 2016 by Mafengwo)

Airbnb can improve Chinese travelers’ experiences in many ways, while there is potential for improvements.

Airbnb’s international community can offer the new generation of Chinese travelers the authentic and local experience that they look for, in addition to cheaper prices, better & more diverse accommodation choices. However, for large number of new Chinese travelers who have never used short-rental products, it can also be intimidating to try out such a new product on their first trip abroad.

“I saw short-term rentals on Airbnb’s website. Look like they are cheap and people can experience locals’ lives. But is it safe? Has anyone used it before?”

— Potential traveler planning a trip to the U.S. posted the question online

Airbnb’s advantages:

LA trip

Walking in travelers’ shoes – A trip to LA.

To fully understand Chinese travelers , we flew to Los Angeles for a week to observe and interview travelers on-site.

No online research can be as effective as field research. Therefore, we flew from Providence, Rhode Island to Los Angeles. We chose LA because it is one of the most popular U.S. cities for Chinese travelers and one of the cities that have most Airbnb listings. Seeing and talking to travelers proved our online research and helped us be more empathetic with the travelers. 

“We usually read travelogues and travel tips to plan our route. Reading previous travelers’ experience save us unnecessary troubles.”
“Our English isn’t good. We use translation apps when necessary.”
“Food is a huge pain! I can’t stand hamburger or pizza for more than two days.”

— Chinese travelers in LA

To understand Airbnb, we booked two Airbnb experiences and of course, stayed at Airbnbs in LA.

We traveled to LA also becacue it is one of the only 12 cities in the world that currently offer the new Airbnb experiences. While in LA, we booked “The Pinata King” experience and “Wellness Warrior” experience, as well as 2 Airbnbs that had Chinese travelers’ reviews.

Unlike our first trip to LA two years ago, when we only visited tourist attractions, this time our experience hosts showed us different faces of LA. From making piñata to meditating on the beach, we walked into the lives of LA locals! We realized travel should be about becoming part of the community even for just a few days. The challenge is really how to invite more Chinese travelers and travelers in general to embrace Airbnb experiences and travel in this way.

“Airbnb experience is such an innovative concept, so travelers get to see places that took locals 5 years to discover.”

— Chloe, friend of our experience host said when she learned about Airbnb experience

Ideation

Brainstorming with a persona.

With all the research, we did a few rounds of affinity mapping to sythesize findings. We then built a persona to clarify users’ needs, goals and ideate solutions from her point of view.

Triplog invites Airbnb’s passionate members to share their own itineraries and insights after a great trip. With links embedded in the triplogs, other travelers can plan & book the same trip within a few clicks.

Triplog is specially designed to solve new Chinese travelers’ pain for trip planning, as well as to satisfy their passion for sharing their experiences. It’s the one-stop-shop that travelers are looking for.

Easy as 1. 2. 3

1 Read & Book

2 Happy Travel

3 Write & Share

Prototype

Designing the experience

Inspired by existing features

Designed to fit into the current App experience

Sketches, wireframes and prototypes

Read Triplog & easily book the same experience

We added a map view after our own LA trip.

Even though Airbnb already has map view for each experience and homes, there isn’t a map that shows all the experiences and homes we booked all together. When we booked our 2 Airbnb experiences, we had no idea how big LA is and how bad the traffic is there. We ended up spending 3 to 4 hours everyday on cars.

Map view to visualize the trip

Travelers’ time is precious. Therefore we added a map view for the Triplogs so readers can see the relationships between places, and plan activities based on their locations. The same map view can also be added for the existing “trips” sections, so travelers can have a visual of their own itinerary as well.

Write & share trips with ease

Edit trip details

Potential services for special needs

Since Airbnb is planning to add a “Service” section, we also brainstormed potential services that can improve Chinese travelers’ experiences.

Insights & Moving Forward

Triplog is only a start

The Chinese outbound travel industry is so new that there are many unmet needs.

While we have received positive feedbacks from our Chinese friends, families and travelers on Triplog, we also realize travel planning is only one pain point, there are many more. As Chinese and as travelers ourselves, we feel empathetic. More products and services should and need to be developed, so they can have the amazing trips that they deserve.

Airbnb showed us that the beauty of travel lies in human interactions.

After immersing ourselves in Airbnb videos, articles, homes and experiences, we realized Airbnb’s magic truly lies in the people. Our LA trip was meaningful and unique because of the conversations we had with our hosts. We felt grateful to have met them. Their stories inspired us and as they said, we inspired them as well.

We realized Airbnb is building a world that we not only open doors but open arms and hearts to each other. As Airbnb says, “belong anywhere”, that’s how travel should be and that’s how life should be. We can’t wait to see more travelers join the Airbnb community.

“Contact me if you ever need anything or anything happens, so you don’t feel that you are alone here.”

— Our Airbnb experience host said to us

Moving forward, we will continue to explore ways to improve travel experiences. 

This project has been much more than a design challenge. We now understand travel in a completely different way from when we started. Travel is not about seeing a place, but experiencing the lives of others, meeting friends we haven’t met and gaining new perspectives of ourselves and life in general. We are grateful to have amazing travel experience ourselves. We are inspired and determined to improve other travelers’ experiences. We’ll end with a quote that we believe to capture the essence of travel: 

“Travel has never been about where you go, but about who you can become.”

— Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb