Airbnb opens up changes for new business for longtime Charleston tour guide 

Building Blocks

click to enlarge Palmer Stowe saw AirbnB Experiences as a way to expand her tour guide business

Ruta Smith

Palmer Stowe saw AirbnB Experiences as a way to expand her tour guide business

Palmer Stowe has run her own walking tour company with a partner for more than six years. But when she heard Airbnb was launching Experiences in Charleston, she saw an opportunity to experiment with more niche tours that she could target at a different clientele, putting a stake in the ground for her business on a fast-growing platform with a worldwide customer base.

With Airbnb working to help visitors find "live like a local" travel experiences, Stowe decided to set out on the venture on her own just to try it out.

"As I've been doing my tours over the last six years, I've found certain things that I sort of find more personally interesting than other things," Stowe says. So she focused on architecture, thinking it "would be a good way for me to make a more specific, personalized tour, and that's very much what Airbnb wants you to do, is give an experience that's all about something that you find personally fascinating."

So, Stowe drew up the only architectural tour you'll find among Charleston's modest collection of Airbnb Experiences that have kicked off in recent months. There are other tours offered as Airbnb Experiences — photo walks, historical tours, graveyard tours, cultural walks — but Stowe's is the only one that examines local history through its building methods and styles.

One plus of hitching her historically accurate wagon to the Airbnb platform, Stowe says, is the technological advantage of a convenient suite of built-in tools to schedule, manage, and communicate with her tour groups through the app.

"I like that I can message the whole group at one time and be like, 'Hey guys, maybe bring an umbrella.' or 'Bring some extra water today.'"

Naturally, with millions of people browsing Airbnb for travel around the world, the company knows a thing or two about what people want. For years, Airbnb has advised traditional home hosts on best practices for everything from safety tips to how to photograph your home to attract more guests.

click to enlarge RUTA SMITH
  • Ruta Smith

With Experiences, leveraging that information means actionable info that hosts can use to book more Experiences. Recently, Stowe says, Airbnb told Charleston hosts that people were looking for things to do in the evening and to consider adding more to do after hours.

"That's good to know as a business owner, that's a neat little perk," she says.

So that got the wheels turning on how she could add an interesting evening tour. Maybe something a little shorter? Which areas are best for walking at twilight?

Stowe has found, too, that guests for her Airbnb Experiences tour tend to lean a little younger and are more engaged with the subject matter.

"Sometimes on Tripadvisor or people who find you through a hotel just want to see pretty houses and they don't necessarily want to hear about slavery, so it's kind of nice to have people who are more specifically interested in your niche."


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