Two Berlin clubs allegedly visited by Airbnb-affiliated "Experience" tours of the city's electronic music scene have spoken to Resident Advisor.
The tours in question, called Club Like A Local - Berlin Underground and Discover The City's Techno Club Scene, are just two of many offered through Airbnb Experiences, which provides personalised tours, workshops and other activities hosted by local guides. (Other Experiences in Berlin include river cruises and street art tours, and Google cache reveals a now-unavailable New York club Experience.)
The club tours promise to prepare guests for a night of dance music before bringing them to a club. According to reviews left on Airbnb, guests meet guides at a bar or, in some cases, a guide's house, for a "briefing." The guides also help guests select clothing that will improve their chances of entry. One guide even offers to teach dance moves. Drinks and entry to the clubs are not included in the tour price, which can cost more than €70 for four hours.
According to reviews left on Airbnb, the tours visit some of Berlin's best-known venues, including Griessmuehle and KitKatClub. Griessmuehle, a sprawling club in a former Neukölln grain mill, recently hosted DJs such as Rødhåd, Ellen Allien and Intergalactic Gary, while KitKatClub is a co-ed fetish spot, home of the popular techno party Gegen (Paula Temple enjoyed playing there so much it inspired one of her best-known tracks).
"Our work is to create a safe, playful environment where people can have fun and be themselves with no one to judge them," Gegen promoter Fabio Boxikus told RA. "It hurts me to hear that we became a stop on a ridiculous human safari for people who think that they can buy anything without having any idea about what's going on inside the club, or how much work it took to create that special place."
"As a former history student, I think it's great to offer insights on Berlin history and club culture for tourists," Johann Wékel, a booker at Griessmuehle, said. "But the way it's advertised on Airbnb is ridiculous—mostly foreigners who moved to the city in the last few years offering a 'Berlin experience' by charging up to €80 for chit-chat in a bar, then sending people to random clubs."
Wékel continues: "I think it can be quite a scam if people pay up to €80 only to have a one- or two-hour lecture at a bar and then get sent to a club to have their own 'experience.' People should definitely be able to learn about Berlin's scene and clubs, but paying this much only for advice, instead of just going to discover a venue and party by themselves, misses out on the personal experience."
The tour guides disagree with those assessments. "We are trying to help fight against corporate gentrification by inspiring more people to move here for the music and arts culture," Adrian, one of the two guides behind Club Like A Local - Berlin Underground, told RA over email. "Being able to pay the bills from doing what we are passionate about enables us to invest more time into positively contributing to the scene."
Adrian, an Australian DJ who moved to Berlin three years ago, runs the tours with Martin, a "28th generation German" who has lived in Berlin for 14 years. Both had "fairly successful white collar careers" before launching their tours. They declined to provide RA with any names of the clubs they've visited with tour groups.
"We work very hard on making sure everybody is going to be a positive contribution to the party and have no problems with rejecting and refunding those who we don't have good feeling about," Martin wrote. "We also place specific emphasis on helping our guests with outfit choices. This of course helps with entry, but more specifically I find it very important in making both the guests and other clubbers feel comfortable." Adrian emphasised that comfort is key: "Based on our guests so far, we have noticed that solo travellers (especially females) and couples older than 30 particularly enjoy having a safe and friendly crew of friends to go out with."
"Compared to the average night out in most other places around the world, clubbing in Berlin is absolutely a circus," Adrian said, responding to the view that the tours are like "human safaris." "That's why we love it. And the most beautiful and immersive freakshow is always on the dance floor."
Rules for Airbnb hosts in Berlin are among the most restrictive in the world. Many residents blame the rental service for rising rent prices, a sentiment reflected in rules imposed by the local government, which require some landlords to obtain a permit before using the leasing service.
The impact these club tours may have on electronic music in Berlin isn't clear. Wékel, the Griessmuehle booker, isn't concerned. "I don't really see this concept evolving into something damaging for clubs," he said. "It is too niche and will always be called out by people from the scene."
Boxikus, the Gegen promoter, is less optimistic. "I'm happy to confirm [to] you that those guys will never get into KitKat anymore," he said. "Of course we're open to tourists, but they have to act like everyone else, fit in the club and respect our work and the guests inside. We don't want curious people invading our spaces just because they have the arrogance to pay ten times the tickets value to someone who speculates on them and us."