People to seek out smaller cities, spend more time with family even after pandemic: Airbnb Chief

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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The chief executive of American vacation rental service Airbnb, Brian Chesky, predicted travel would permanently change due to the pandemic with people seeking out thousands of smaller cities and spending more time visiting friends and family.

Traditional tourism and sightseeing at top global destinations would be significantly reduced by travelers who will drive to smaller communities and fly less for business meetings.

Travelers are “yearning for what was taken away from them,” Mr. Chesky said. “They’re not yearning to see Times Square. What they are yearning to do is to see their friends and their families they have not seen in a long time.”

The startup was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 and its business dropped by 80 percent in a little over eight weeks. However, as lockdowns eased, more travelers opted to book homes instead of hotels, helping Airbnb post a surprise profit for the third quarter. The San Francisco-based firm gained from increased interest in renting homes away from major cities.

The home rental firm went public in a blockbuster initial public offering (IPO) in December, its shares more than doubling in their stock market debut. Shares of Airbnb rose as much as 10 percent to a record high of $187.42 recently.

Measures to avoid violence in the US

The rental platform has been canceling home-sharing reservations in the Washington DC area for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on 20th January after law enforcement warned of a threat from armed militias. Mr. Chesky said that he did not want the platform facilitating people traveling to commit violence in communities.

Airbnb made the decision after consulting local and federal officials and after a number of hosts worried about potential attacks sought to cancel bookings. However, major hotel chains including Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc and Marriott International have said they planned to uphold existing reservations.