Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky Says Company Future Is To ‘Live’, Not Just Travel

The long-stay trend is reshaping Airbnb’s business. Far from the origin story of the company of couch surfing for a business convention, this is the cornerstone of the new nomadic digital lifestyle: winter months in Miami and Aspen, complemented by stays summer in New York, San Francisco or the Hamptons on Long Island. . While this lifestyle existed before the pandemic, it was not for the masses.

“Before, you had to be rich to live elsewhere during the summer, but now people can defer the costs by renting [their primary home] on Airbnb when they left – it might even become a cash-neutral possibility now, ”he says, foreshadowing a world in which Airbnb is replacing local markets for seasonal real estate.

That Chesky sees an opportunity for Airbnb in the wake of the pandemic is no surprise. The company, which rebounded for a strong summer in 2020 after the initial shock from Covid-19 wiped out 80% of its business, has come out of the past 16 months in better shape than most travel companies. Its valuation surpassed the $ 100 billion mark and shattered expectations immediately after its long-awaited IPO in December, and although it peaked at $ 219 per share in February, the current share price of $ 134 reflects a decrease of $ 10 from this initial peak.

That advantage wears off, however, as the rest of the world begins to regain its post-pandemic balance. While renting private homes provided an environment of privacy and social distancing control in 2020, a May 25 report on summer travel from Deloitte shows the desire for hospitality has returned: 85% of travelers Americans opt for hotels. With schools returning to full capacity in the fall, it also remains to be seen whether the flexibility granted by large companies – on which Chesky’s forecast is based – will continue to exist after 2021.

Working with cities

In the first quarter of 2021, Airbnb reported that average nightly rates climbed 35% year over year. The figure, Chesky said on an earnings call, was linked to the popularity of large suburban homes for American family reunions. That number could level off as more affordable markets around the world reopen to tourism and newly vaccinated travelers regain the confidence to explore urban markets. But it may also signal a new wave of tensions between Airbnb and local residents in places where the company is promoting second home ownership and removing the residential housing stock from the market.

If legal hurdles in global capitals had been Airbnb’s banner issue until 2020, Chesky says “the pandemic was a reset for us with cities, in a good way.” The company has signed agreements with more than 100 countries, cities and municipalities, including the Scottish Tourism Alliance and Travel Portland, all intended to boost tours.

Governments “are now reaching out because they want our support,” he said. “They are seeing huge deficits in tourism” which, he adds, is “the wind in the back”.

It is a two-sided coin. In other parts of the world, governments are rethinking their tourism management plans, fearing that the travel industry will need to correct unsustainable practices that existed before the pandemic. Among those who have recently proposed to tighten restrictions on Airbnb include the Prime Minister of Ireland, the New York City Council and the City of Paris, whose latest move was to adopt quotas for the number of apartment rentals in line all over town.

Chesky sees two responses to these restrictions. One of them is winning over your enemies, which he says is one of the driving forces behind Airbnb’s latest improvements, which include new features in the City Portal compliance tool that highlights regulatory policies and relays data to cities.

Another is to “redistribute travel” beyond these metropolitan poles, a trend that began during the pandemic. Highlighting less visited places is the goal of the new ‘Flexible Destinations’ search, which finds unique accommodations such as treehouses and yurts. “People don’t go to the same 20 to 30 places anymore,” Chesky says.

A long-haul vision for remote work

Much of Airbnb’s success relies on the remote working that continues after the pandemic as the company looks beyond the traditional idea of ​​leisure and business travel for its future, according to Chesky.

New features like flexible dates, which help users find availability in popular homes on alternate dates, rely on continuing to work from home. The same goes for Airbnb’s new focus on relocation assistance. Since the beginning of May, the company has been helping its customers “try out” a new city before committing to it; to do this, it has partnered with moving companies in nine cities across the United States to offer discounts on home rentals.

So what if the work at home is not happening? Give it two to three years, says Chesky. “Companies are strict today [about working from the office] maybe not – in the future. Ultimately, they’re going to have young, digital-native managers who don’t want those old boundaries of old workplaces, and they’ll have to change to retain talent. “

Conversely, fully remote businesses “will want to come together for key moments,” he adds, saying this will define “business travel 2.0 – where employees working remotely will return to headquarters for a week at a time. both for the busy season of financial planning. or what do I know. Chesky isn’t the only one predicting this: Evan Konwiser, executive vice president of product and strategy for American Express Global Business Travel, told Bloomberg the same in March.

“The time to get on a plane for a meeting is over,” says Chesky. In their place, he says, it is “an opportunity for long stays for us”. At the end of the day, he’s optimistic: “Companies aren’t going to figure it out, employees will.”


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