Madeline Sponsler, FISM News
In a virtual news conference with Reuters Newsmakers, Brian Chesky shared his thoughts on the state of the travel industry amid the pandemic and shared a hopeful vision for Airbnb’s future.
“In trying times, people want joy and they’re looking for it”, Chesky said, adding he thinks Airbnb can be useful to the world by providing that joyful connection many people are seeking.
In a separate interview, Chesky told CNBC that even with no marketing involved, domestic bookings on Airbnb between the end of May through early June this year matched booking numbers from the previous year.
“People want to get out of their house”, but they aren’t as willing to travel on planes, or cross international borders.
“They want to get out of their house, but they want to do it safely”.
What the company has seen as a result is a huge spike in domestic trips.
According to Chesky, everyone used to travel to the same 20 or 30 cities. Now, he says, we’re seeing a “travel redistribution”.
The data shows that people are traveling to less urban, less dense areas. They want to visit smaller communities, often within driving distance. People are rediscovering their own cities, states, and surrounding communities.
Looking ahead, Chesky says, “we’re more focused than ever”. Airbnb recently revealed its enhanced COVID-19 cleaning initiative, which was informed by the surgeon general. Hosts will receive a certification on these cleaning guidelines, and guests will be able to identify this certification before booking.
Soon, Airbnb will be rolling out additional guidelines for how to interact in shared spaces, which is the original booking option by the company, and a pillar of their model, he added.
The Airbnb co-founder said it was too soon to tell if the recent spike in bookings is a marker of true sustainable recovery or just pent up demand.
One thing he does feel certain of: “travel as we know it has been fundamentally changed forever.”