Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky expressed optimism around "the beginning of a travel rebound" as the company reported revenue growth for the first quarter and pointed to encouraging trends toward longer average stays.

"Our business rebounded faster than anyone expected, [and] our business improved without the recovery of two of our strongest historical segments: urban travel and cross-border travel," Chesky told investors during its Q1 earnings call Thursday.

For the quarter, Airbnb saw revenue grow 5% year over year, to $887 million, a sum that also exceeded revenue levels for the same period in 2019. For the first quarter, it posted a net loss of $1.17 billion.

The group also posted a year-over-year average daily rate increase of 35%.

Chesky said Airbnb has benefited from a shift toward more flexible travel habits, fueled in part by the pandemic-era proliferation of remote work policies.

Almost a quarter of Airbnb nights booked in the first quarter were for stays of 28 nights or longer. In 2019, just 14% of the group's nights booked were for stays lasting 28 nights or longer.

"People are discovering that they don't have to be tethered to one location to live and work," Chesky said. "They are getting in cars and they're traveling to small towns and rural communities, many of which don't even have a hotel. People are traveling anytime, anywhere, and they're staying longer."

Airbnb wants to add hosts

Looking forward, Chesky said the company would be focused on recruiting more hosts. The platform currently has around four million hosts and a total of 5.6 million accommodations listings. The company said about 90% of its hosts are what it calls individual hosts, versus professional hospitality providers.

In late February, the company launched its first large-scale marketing campaign in five years, aiming to educate guests on the benefits of hosting and encourage them to list on the Airbnb platform. Concurrently, Airbnb has streamlined the host registration process.

"We're making it even easier to become a host by reducing the number of steps to become [one], and as we reduce the number steps, the conversion rate for hosts gets even easier," said Chesky. "I expect to get millions of more hosts in the coming years on Airbnb."

Chesky added that the company plans to unveil a suite of new tools and services on May 24, many of which will be designed to further enhance the host experience. He described the upcoming rollout as "the most comprehensive update to the Airbnb service in 12 years."

Meanwhile, in anticipation of a supply shortage in popular non-urban markets this summer, Chesky said the company plans to focus on efforts to redirect users toward markets with more available inventory.

"Now that guests are telling us that they're much more flexible about where they travel, we can point demand to where we have supply," said Chesky. "There are a lot of opportunities for us to point demand to where have available supply, which will allow us to steadily increase occupancy."


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