Airbnb Co-Founder and CEO Brian Chesky talks to CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin today on “Squawk Box”
WHEN: Today, Tuesday, March 1, 2022
WHERE: CNBC’s “Squawk Box”
Below are excerpts from the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” (MF 6AM – 9AM ET) today, Tuesday, March 1.st. Here is a link to the video on CNBC.com: https://www.cnbc.com/video/2022/03/01/airbnb-to-offer-free-short-term-housing-for-up-to-100000 -ukrainian-refugees.html.
All references must be from CNBC.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Welcome to “Squawk”. More than half a million refugees have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion. On Monday, Airbnb announced that it is offering free temporary housing to 100,000 refugees. Company relying on this program that it launched following the crisis in Afghanistan. In an interview last night, I asked Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky how it all came together.
BRIAN CHESKY: When this crisis unfolded and we really started to realize last Thursday or Friday that there would likely be hundreds of thousands of displaced people, we sprang into action and really over the weekend, c was 24 hours a day with a huge group of people to be able to mobilize. We reached out to the governments of Poland, Germany, Hungary and Romania, as well as countries even to the west of them, to offer help. We’ve contacted our hosts, we’ve secured funding, and so we’re ready to host up to 100,000 refugees, and frankly, we can host as many refugees as we have hosts.
SORKIN: And so when you say you got funding, how much does it cost?
CHESKY: It’s hard to know. I mean, I invested millions of dollars in this initiative. I have also personally invested millions of dollars as an Airbnb.org donor. Other donors have them, it’s a bit vague because we don’t know how many people we’re going to host. We’ll host as many as we can, but hosts also have the option of hosting for free, at a discount, or at full price. So where we pay money is when it’s discounted or full price. Obviously we won’t pay anything if it’s a free stay and we’d like as many free stays as possible, but not everyone can do that. So it’s just not possible but you know, it will be a substantial investment.
SORKIN: Meanwhile, on Monday, Airbnb announced it was offering free temporary housing for up to 100,000 refugees. Airbnb has more listings in the European Union than in any other region. I asked Brian Chesky in an interview yesterday about the lists he has in Russia.
CHESKY: It’s going to be very difficult for Russian hosts to get paid given the many restrictions on money accumulated by local banks. Obviously we have to pay and hand over the hosts. So I think actually there’s a lot of limitations on our local community there already, but I’ve been really focused in the last few days on providing housing for refugees. That’s what I’m focusing on right now and we’ll kind of see how the situation develops.
SORKIN: You mentioned payments, and that’s an important issue. Have you thought about the implications of, for example, the imposition of limits or the fact that the banks are going to impose limits on the SWIFT system, how you make these payments currently? Are people considering using other payment systems, etc.? ?
CHESKY: Yeah, I mean, we think about a range of eventualities. So, I mean, we have a payments team that has managed $330 billion through our platform in the last twelve years alone. So we worked on we have a lot of contingencies. It’s just that we’ve only been, you know, a few days into this crisis, so it’s hard to know how it’s going to play out right now.
SORKIN: We’re starting to see some people trying to accept crypto payments in Ukraine as a result of this. Does Airbnb support crypto?
CHESKY: Well, Airbnb, I mean, I’m personally supportive of the idea of crypto, sure, I think it’s really interesting technology. I took to Twitter earlier this year and asked a community on Twitter if Airbnb could launch something in 2022, what would it be? The number one answer was to add crypto payments, so I have a team dealing with that. We have nothing to announce but we are absolutely looking at that and specific to this crisis, you know, I don’t know, nothing is going to be able to be implemented probably that quickly. So right now we are really focused on providing housing for refugees. That’s why I mobilized a team.
SORKIN: I also spoke to Brian about inflation and the increase in the price of reservations.
CHESKY: I think like with a lot of services, we’re seeing prices go up. Our average daily rate is up. Now, what’s important to note is that one of the main reasons our average daily rate is up is actually a change in composition. People are shifting from booking one and two bedroom homes and studios in urban markets to larger homes. We also had a mix shift from Latin America, Asia, which was depressed, especially Asia was particularly depressed, to more expensive homes in North America and Europe. So that’s been the main reason why our average daily rates have gone up, but again, I think prices in all areas and many services are going up. I think another thing I’m trying to say, I think a lot of hosts, a lot of people are moving into hosting, obviously, with inflation, with a lot of economic uncertainty, a lot of people are seeing accommodation as a very important means of making additional income. So hopefully that’s a way to be able to help a number of people.
SORKIN: And Brian Chesky recently announced that he will be living in different Airbnbs this year, moving to a new location every few weeks. Even while hosting the company’s latest earnings call while on the road in Miami last month, I asked Brian Chesky what he thought about the future of work and whether the hybrid was truly here to stay.
CHESKY: I think this is the start of a revolution in the way we work. I mean, obviously, there’s ultimately, I think, I don’t think CEOs or even government officials are going to determine whether or not people go back to work and how often. I think employees will and what employees are voting on is they are voting on flexibility. And I think that after compensation, flexibility in where people work will be the second best thing CEOs will ultimately have in competing for top talent. So I think we live in a world where there will be a lot more flexibility. The boundaries between travelling, living and working are blurring. And I think that’s the very beginning of the signs to come. And it’s just good for everyone to remember, it’s the worst technology that will ever be in our lifetime, so obviously the camera technology, the bandwidth, everything is going to improve. And so I think it’s going to allow a lot more remote working. That being said, we’re going to have to come together. It is one of the loneliest times in human history. We can’t just stare at screens all day because then we’re going to replicate the movie Wally, I don’t think anyone wants to do that. So it’s going to be a balance, but I don’t think it’s five days a week. Anyone who thinks people return to the office five days a week or even the majority of days is likely to be an outlier. That’s not really where the world is going.