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Airbnb: Remote Workers Could Spur ‘New Kind of Business Travel’

“I don’t think business travel is ever coming back the way it was before the pandemic,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said this week during the company’s first-quarter earnings call. “At least it’s not going to look like it did. I do think a new kind of business travel may emerge.”

That new kind of business travel would include more employees working remotely and returning to headquarters occasionally, he explained, and they may prefer to rent an Airbnb accommodation. 

“If you think about where business travel is going in the future, it seems completely intuitive to me that as companies offer more flexibility, more people are going to live around the world, but they’re not all going to want to live remote,” he explained. “They’re going to have to come back to visit, and so I think you’re going to start to see longer stays. … You’re going to see longer stays going in cities. We’re seeing elevated bookings in urban markets for stays of longer than 28 days.”

Chesky added that 24 percent of bookings were for longer than 28 days, up from 14 percent in 2019.

Further, Chesky thinks business travelers will want to travel together. For example, they may work in three different cities, but they need to travel to headquarters. 

“They may not all get three different hotel rooms at Airbnb,” Chesky said. “They might get one house. They can split the cost. They can eat around the breakfast table in the morning. I think the things that benefit Airbnb [with] business travel is group travel and longer-stay travel. Those two things are disproportionately beneficial to doing home [rentals], and these are general tailwinds for business travel. I want to be clear. People will, of course, travel for business again. I just think the bar to get on a plane to go to a meeting will be higher than before.”

During the first quarter, Airbnb reported a net loss of nearly $1.2 billion, according to the company. This figure compares with a $340 million loss in the first quarter of 2020. Revenue was $887 million, a 3 percent year-over-year increase on a constant-currency basis. The company also reported 64.4 million nights and experiences booked in the quarter, up 13 percent year over year, but down 21 percent compared with Q1 2019. Its gross booking value was $10.3 billion, a 48 percent year-over-year increase on a constant-currency basis, and a 3 percent gain compared with Q1 2019.

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