Airbnb's CEO is planning for a travel-ution — and it’s all about flexibility (and yurts)

Thursday, September 23, 2021 by Robinhood Snacks |
_Airbnb review: 5 stars for location, 1 star for no microwave [Marco Bottigelli/Moment via GettyImages]_

Airbnb review: 5 stars for location, 1 star for no microwave [Marco Bottigelli/Moment via GettyImages]

Welcome to workationland... Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky predicts a revolution: a travel revolution. At a conference this week, Chesky said he expects the industry to bounce back bigger than ever. Chesky believes a “travel revolution” will usher in a new golden age of travel, that’s more free-style than pre-pandemic travel. What he expects:

  • Long stays: 50% of Airbnb stays are a week or more, and 20% exceed a month.
  • Loose plans: 40% of travelers don’t initially have a destination or date in mind when they visit Airbnb’s site.
  • Rural > urban: Rental occupancy in large US cities fell 11% this year from pre-pandemic levels, but increased 27% in rural areas.

You say you want a travel-ution… Airbnb is a comeback story of the corona-conomy. The rental icon lost 80% of its business when the pandemic hit. But it quickly embraced the work-from-home life and catered to changing travel trends. Since then, sales have rebounded to exceed pre-pandemic levels. How Airbnb’s ushering in the travel-ution:

  • “I’m Flexible” options let travelers go anywhere, anytime. Handy, since 70% of US companies will continue offering flexible and remote work.
  • Unique stays like boat houses, yurts, caves, and even shipping containers cater to adventure-hungry, couch-tired remote workers (#edgy).
  • Off-the-beaten-track options in rural allow travelers to stay socially distanced as part of Airbnb’s “Greatest Outdoors” campaign.
  • Online experiences, like a Mezcal & Tequila Cocktail Masterclass, give travelers Covid-safe options.

Revolutionize to thrive... is better than “adapt to survive.” Airbnb thrived during the pandemic by recognizing the “old” travel biz was gone, and quickly building new experiences for remote, Covid-conscious customers. But it’s harder for some travel companies to adapt: Despite a rebound in leisure trips, the airline biz is struggling. Business travel, which brings in 75% of airlines' profits, still isn't budging back.