Airbnb CEO pledges to focus on experiences

Skift grip

Airbnb’s Brian Chesky may be overestimating how many people will be working from home in the future “glued” to their laptop screens. But the world has changed – that’s for sure – and travel habits have also changed, with a new demand for experiences.

Denis Schaal

Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky said travel experts and analysts underestimated the potential of travel and the industry would soon experience a new “golden age of travel”.

Part of the trend, he said, is fueled by the fact that roughly 50% of American workers could potentially work on their laptops from home, and they would commute to get out of the house and seek human connections.

Chesky called it a “dystopian” risk for people to be glued to their screens all day, and they will leave their homes to travel and fight loneliness. And they won’t just travel to places like Las Vegas, Rome and Paris, but will venture to some of the 100,000 cities and markets where Airbnb would try to entice them to travel.

Skift Founder and CEO Rafat Ali interviewed Chesky on stage at Skift Global Forum Wednesday in Manhattan, where the CEO of Airbnb detailed his vision for the new era.

In other news, Chesky claimed that Airbnb’s Experiences business is now back to pre-pandemic levels, and after a two-year hiatus instituted in 2020, it would benefit from a product refresh and new investments over the next two years.

“Experiences will once again become an increasing priority, and we’re making quite a bit of investment in the product to continue to push experiences forward,” Chesky said on an earnings call in early August. “And I think that’s going to be a big part of our story in 2023 and beyond over the next five years. So I’m really excited about them.

However, Chesky told the Skift Global Forum that Airbnb won’t be getting into the transportation and airline booking business. “It’s not going to happen anytime soon,” he said.

One reason is that transportation tends to be a commoditized activity and wouldn’t allow Airbnb to give it differentiation, he said.

On Airbnb’s rebound from the early days of the pandemic, Chesky said cross-border travel is back — except in Asia — and urban travel is strong, though it hasn’t returned and likely won’t return. to pre-pandemic levels.

Although cities may not return to pre-pandemic levels, New York may be an exception, he added.

But in the future, people will live and work in a “distributed” way and go on journeys to seek human connections, he said.

Business travel won’t just be about attending sales meetings, but will be about longer trips and mixed with vacations and life, Chesky said.

Chesky said Airbnb’s new categories for accommodations search are a multi-year effort and will help Airbnb strengthen its role as a place of inspiration for travel to new destinations.

He said Airbnb has found it can take a different approach to marketing than many of its online travel agency rivals. Chesky said the company spent about 20% of its revenue on sales and marketing in the second quarter. Booking Holdings spent more than 50% of its revenue on sales and marketing in the second quarter and has consistently been far more profitable than Airbnb.

Chesky said public relations — generating news stories — is more important to Airbnb than paid search engine marketing. He called this performance marketing a “drug” that’s hard to get rid of once you start using it.

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