Airbnb and 23andMe want to help people “connect to [their] heritage” by encouraging them to hand over their DNA and go on vacation.
The two companies announced a partnership on Tuesday that will let customers plan “heritage” vacations. Here’s how it works, per Condé Nast Traveler: You take a 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.
Airbnb is trying to cash in on the growing popularity of what it calls “heritage travel.” An April study commissioned by Airbnb, which included 8,000 participants from eight countries, found that more than 50 percent of Americans have traveled to at least one country of their ancestry. (As have 89 percent of Indian people and 69 percent of French people.)
Airbnb and 23andMe aren’t the only companies looking to profit from this trend. In 2017, AncestryDNA and Go Ahead Tours began providing genealogy-themed tours and, later, genealogy cruises, Gizmodo reported last year. “This form of tourism is growing rapidly and is increasingly popular as Western societies age,” Dallen Timothy, editor of the Journal of Heritage Tourism, told the site at the time.
The rise in at-home DNA testing kits may have contributed to the so-called heritage vacation trend, but it’s also raised concerns about privacy and security. In 2018, authorities were able to catch the Golden State Killer with the help of DNA evidence obtained via online ancestry databases. The DNA match they found wasn’t the suspect’s; it belonged to one of his relatives, whose genealogical information was later used to track him down. As Vox’s Brian Resnick previously reported, the more people who take these tests, the bigger the databases become, making it even easier to find people who haven’t taken the tests themselves.
If privacy isn’t a concern, it’s likely that 23andMe and Airbnb can help you plan a lovely vacation that helps you get in touch with your roots. But, since DNA testing isn’t always accurate, and since the tests are notably less precise for people whose ancestors aren’t from Europe, it’s also possible they’ll end up suggesting you go to countries that have nothing to do with your heritage — after they collect your genetic data, of course.
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