Treehouse

Airbnb pulled off a pandemic turnaround for the ages — now it’s betting on a future with all-new travel habits

Thursday, May 12, 2022 by Robinhood Snacks |

Sunbathing at a shepherd’s hut… welcome to the new age of great escapes. Airbnb has launched its biggest makeover in more than a decade, hoping you’ll ditch your spa getaway for an off-the-grid excursion. The revamp includes the ability to search by category, from castles to tiny homes, no specific destination required. Plus:

  • AirCover: Free travel protection with a 24/hr safety line, and a “get what you booked” guarantee. AKA: travel insurance.
  • Split stays: A frictionless way to split longer trips between two homes, intended to appeal to digital nomads.
  • “OMG” getaways: A new category highlighting IG-worthy stays, like an alien-themed glamping site in Joshua Tree (FYI: it’s booked solid till 2025).

Team meetings in Tahoe... Airbnb almost collapsed when Covid hit, cutting a quarter of its workforce as bookings fell off a cliff. But the rental giant staged a quick pivot — not to mention an IPO — recognizing that "old" travel was gone while creating experiences for remote safety-conscious customers. Bookings reached a record 102M last quarter, and nearly a quarter were long-term rentals. The company expects a strong summer travel season to keep fueling record sales.

  • Rental competition: Rival VRBO (owned by Expedia) also saw record bookings in the first quarter, and said half its customers were brand new.
  • 7 out of 10 Americans expect to travel this summer, though inflation could scramble some of those plans.
THE TAKEAWAY

Flexibility and discoverability are the future of travel… and Airbnb has always had a built-in advantage for that future. Its revamp is intended to merge the things that customers love about the service (think: the whimsy of finding and staying in a treehouse) with the comforts of the traditional hotel experience (think: getting exactly what you pay for, and a refund if you don’t).