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Reflection: Airbnb's Food-related “Online Experiences”: A Recipe for Connection and Escape

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COVID-19, online cooking classes, digital commensality, virtual escape, online consumer reviews, Airbnb Online Experiences



During the global COVID pandemic, cooking and baking have reemerged as popular at-home pastimes. In this essay, we focus on digital cooking classes offered by Airbnb. Responding to restrictions on physical mobility, as well as to the sudden demand for leisure activities which could be experienced from one’s home, in early April 2020, Airbnb launched a new service called “Online Experiences” (OEs). While the types of OEs offered on the platform are varied, approximately 30% center around digitally mediated food-preparation. Through our thematic analysis of consumer reviews of OEs, we explore how participants perceive and conceptualize these new digital food-related experiences. Our close analysis of review texts finds that many OE participants discuss these online food activities in terms of digital commensality, highlighting the social connectedness promoted by the act of cooking or baking when performed as a joint action online. In this innovative context, online food-related experiences appear to also stimulate a sense of ‘virtual travel.’

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Food and Foodways, v. 29, issue 1, p. 97-107