- The pandemic has not been kind to Airbnb. In May, the company laid off 25% of its global staff to keep business afloat.
- Despite setbacks, CEO Brian Chesky is “incredibly optimistic” about the future, he told Reuters in a webcast on July 22.
- Rentals outside of cities, particularly unique stays like treehouses and Airstreams, are “booming,” he told Reuters.
- Chesky attributed the recent surge in bookings to people wanting to get out of their houses and reconnect in a safe way. He says he’s hopeful for a “new golden age” post-pandemic, predicting the industry will move away from mass tourism.
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Airbnb has had a trying past few months.
In May, CEO Brian Chesky predicted that Airbnb’s yearly revenue will be half that of 2019 due to the pandemic’s impact on travel. The homesharing company also laid off 25% of its global staff.
Despite having to make difficult decisions these past few months, Chesky is “incredibly optimistic” about recent numbers, he told Reuters’ Global Editor Rob Cox and Columnist Gina Chon in a July 22 webcast.
Earlier in July, Airbnb saw one million room nights booked in a single day for the first time since March. Chesky attributed this uptick in bookings people wanting to get out of their houses.
“I think what this is starting to tell us is that people want to connect, but they want to do so safely,” he said.
Travelers are heading to suburbs and rural areas
Two thirds of those one million bookings were located outside of cities, and 50% were located within 300 miles from guests’ homes, according to an Airbnb news release.
In lieu of touring major global cities and tourist attractions in double-decker buses, travelers are now heading to small towns where they can enjoy socially distanced activities, Chesky said.
“Paris” is out, and “Petaluma and Pittsburgh” are in, he told Reuters.
The pandemic has accelerated a new era of unique stays and ‘private’ travel
In particular, Airbnb’s unique stays like treehouses and Airstreams are “booming,” according to Chesky.
Not only are people booking rentals outside of cities, but they’re also looking for “something more private, intimate, smaller, unique, special — something that could be a destination in and of itself,” he said.
“Unlike a hotel where you’re in a public space, Airbnb is a little more private,” Chesky added. “So I think people feel like maybe for the first time in a long time, Airbnb is not the riskier option.”
In June, Airbnb rolled out new cleaning protocols for hosts to assuage traveler and host concerns about COVID-19 safety while traveling. Guests can now look for an “Enhanced Clean” certification on listings to see whether a host has committed to following the new protocols, such as wearing head-to-toe personal protective equipment while disinfecting rooms.
Though no one knows when travel will fully recover, Chesky is hopeful that the industry is heading into “a new golden age of travel.”
And that future, he thinks, does not include double-decker buses filled with camera-toting tourists. “Travel will not be massive, but small and intimate,” Chesky predicted.
Axel Springer, Insider Inc.’s parent company, is an investor in Airbnb.
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