[imagesource: Charles Platiau / Reuters]
For a while, snapping up an apartment in Cape Town, and then listing it on Airbnb to pay off the bond, was all the rage.
Most places only needed to host guests somewhere around half the month to pay the bills, and companies sprung up to manage all of the Airbnb hosting duties.
If you owned something a little fancier, you might bugger off over December and January, and make a tidy sum from international visitors coming for a longer stay.
Well, for obvious reasons, the situation changed entirely early last year, and Airbnb went into a tailspin.
At the height of lockdowns around the world, the company’s revenue dropped by 72% year on year, and one quarterly report saw losses of $576 million.
It was a financial bloodbath, and around 25% of Airbnb’s workforce was laid off.
However, as Fortune reports, things have picked up the last while, and Airbnb is getting ready for the next phase – “travel in a post-pandemic world”.
Spoken like somebody living in a country with a rapid, coordinated vaccine rollout plan:
“People are getting vaccinated, travel restrictions are lifting, people want to connect,” Brian Chesky, Airbnb CEO, said during a call with journalists on Monday. “Travel is coming back … But [it] will be really different than before.”
Airbnb detailed a series of changes on Monday to adapt for what it believes will be a new travel reality: People booking longer trips, or even living away from home for months. It’s a big change from before, when it was all about business trips or brief vacations during specific times of the year like summer.
Earlier this year, Chesky said that travel would be permanently changed by the pandemic in three major ways.
There would be less business travel, and more leisure travel, people would be more likely to travel to smaller, off-the-beaten-track destinations, and they would be more interested in ‘meaningful travel’ as opposed to ticking off popular tourist spots.
As long as they one day want to return to Cape Town, because we will put up with never finding parking near a beach again if it means a shot in the arm for the local economy.
Among Airbnb’s new features is giving users who search for accommodations is to return results that are just outside their search parameters…
Similarly, Airbnb’s new flexible destinations, available June 30, will try to connect people to accommodations they may not have thought of themselves like yurts, lake houses, private islands, or even caves.
The two features follow Airbnb introducing in February the ability for users to search using flexible dates.
Staying in a yurt – I can see that taking off in the Deep South, somewhere near Scarborough.
In addition to those changes above, Airbnb has also doubled the number of customer service agents, and looked at ways to make it quicker for guests to check out of their accommodation, as well as speeding up the process of new hosts registering.
Since its IPO in December, travel has somewhat rebounded as people started working remotely—often away from home—and take more weekend getaways.
The new trends helped Airbnb increase its first-quarter revenue 5% year over year—even though its loss tripled due to pandemic related debt and restructuring fees.
The revenue gain, though modest, is a big turnaround from the 22% sales decline in the previous quarter.
It’s a long road back, but the wheels are in motion.
Who knows when we will once again be able to welcome cashed-up foreigners to our shores (especially as we look likely to once again return to stricter lockdown measures), but I’m actually looking forward to seeing a sunburnt Pom wandering shirtless down a beach.
Kiff tribal tattoo, pal.
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