Businesses both big and small have been feeling the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic for months on end. So grave is the widespread reach of the virus that even behemoth American fashion brands Neiman Marcus and J.Crew were forced to file for bankruptcy. Of course, the story’s no different for online booking platform Airbnb as millions from all over the world continue to keep themselves quarantined in their own homes. The result proved to be devastating for the company.
“It took us 12 years to build Airbnb, and we lost almost everything in four to six weeks," Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky revealed in an interview on CNBC. Along with this grim statement, Brian also shared his thoughts on the future of the traveling industry, predicting that tourism as we know it has come to an end. “I don't want to say that the journey is over, but rather that the model we knew has died and will not return. We are going to get in our cars, drive a few kilometers to a small community and stay in a house,” he elaborated.
As per Brian, the shift in the industry will move towards short distance travel as vacationers may soon prefer a quick drive for an out-of-town trip over boarding an airplane and flying overseas. “I think you’re going to start to see travel becoming more intimate, more local, to smaller communities,” he said. “People will, one day, get back on planes… But one of the things that I do think is a fairly permanent shift is... a redistribution of where travelers go.”
To illustrate his claims, Brian revealed that Airbnb is finally seeing an upward trend in bookings in the United States. The beginning of their June numbers in particular mimic that of their 2019 bookings around the same period, as travelers opt for more domestic locations. "People are saying they want to get out of the house, but they want to be safe. They don't want to get on airplanes,” said the CEO. “They don't want to travel for business. They want to go to cities; they don't want to cross borders. What they are willing to do is get in a car and drive a couple hundred miles to a small community where they were willing to stay in a house."
Last May, Airbnb announced that they’ve had to sack 25% of its workers. That’s 1900 employees out of 7500. Harrowing as it was, the decision went viral for the company’s careful consideration towards its laid off workforce. Among others, departing employees were made shareholders, were promised additions to their severance pay, and were provided with potential job opportunities moving forward.