Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky says business travel will never be the same post-COVID – but predicted an unprecedented demand for leisure trips in the coming weeks.
Chesky, 39, spoke to CNN’s Poppy Harlow on Tuesday and said he was hopeful for the future of the travel industry, but conceded getting on a plane for a work trip is a relic of life pre-pandemic.
Asked about the future of traveling for work, Chesky said: ‘I think traditional business travel is never going to return the way it was. It doesn’t mean business travel is dead. Just business travel as we knew it isn’t coming back the way it was.
‘The reason why is the bar is higher to get on a plane to do a meeting. We’re realizing how many things can finally be done remotely. I think that people now have what they didn’t have a year or two ago.
‘Many people now flexibility. They have flexibility where they travel and live and work. And they’re starting to combine all those. I think once people have something, they don’t want to let go of it.’
Chesky predicted that there would still be some business travel – but most likely to bring staff together for large, occasional corporation-wide events.
The CEO also predicted normal people would use new flexible working rules – such as the ability to work from home – to spend long periods living in multiple different places throughout the year.
He said regular Americans could exploit these rules to live the same ‘nomadic’ lifestyle as rich people who spend summers in beach resorts like the Hamptons, and winters in ski destinations like Aspen.
The travel expert explained that many people could rent out their own property on Airbnb, and use the cash from that to find their jet-setting existence.
Chesky also boldly predicted that there is going to be a travel rebound unlike anything in his lifetime.
He explained: ‘I think this is probably the most important thing to happen in travel probably since World War II. And, you know, obviously, I’ve been doing this for for 13 years. But we’re pretty big company.
‘We’ve studied the history pretty closely. You know, what you have right now, just give you a couple pieces of data. Number one, you know, on Airbnb, we’re seeing activity that is at 2019 levels already.
‘This is before cross border completely reopens which is half of our business. And this is before, you know, you have re-emergence of people cities. You combine those two, that was 68% of our business.
‘So without that full recovery, we’re back to 2019 levels. What was taken away from us, and connecting with other people. And I think this memorial day weekend you’ll start see something unlike anything we’ve ever seen.’
In the first quarter of 2021, Airbnb reported that average nightly rates had climbed by 35% year over year, which Chesky related to the popularity of large suburban homes for American family reunions, BloombergQuint.com reported.
According to the CEO after having the option to travel taken away, people are jumping at the chance to get out there.
‘I think sometimes in life when things are taken away from you , you want it more,’ he told Harlow. ‘What was taken away from people? Traveling and connecting with other people.’
Chesky predicts that as soon as Memorial Day Weekend travel will increase exponentially across the country.
Chesky also believes that the company will be shifting towards more long-term stays as it has become the ‘cornerstone for the new digital nomad lifestyle,’ where people spend months living in different locations, Bloombergquint.com reported.
‘You used to have to be wealthy to live somewhere else for the summer, but people can defer the costs now by renting (their primary home) on Airbnb when they’re gone—it could even become a cash-neutral possibility now,’ Chesky told Bloomberg, meaning that people could use money raised from renting their home on Airbnb to pay to live a more nomadic existence.
Chesky also discussed how the lodging company will adapt to post-COVID world, including whether or not they are considering allowing host to deny people the ability to rent out homes if someone does not provide proof of vaccination.
Chesky declind to get into specifics, but told CNN the company is working closely with health care professionals, including the surgeon general Dr. Vivek H. Murthy on a hand cleaning protocol for hosts.
‘We’re going just kind of take this step-by-step with guidance from health care professionals so we don’t have anything announce right now,’ he said. ‘We want people very safely and responsibly though.’
After the initial shock of COVID 19, which wiped away 80% of Airbnb’s business, the company rebounded in the summer of 2020 and has come out of the past 16 months in better shape than most travel businesses, BloombergQuint.com reported.
Airbnb was not the only travel company hammered by the pandemic, the World Travel & Tourism Council estimates that the sector lost nearly $4.5 trillion and 62 million jobs last year, Forbes reported.
Airlines alone lost $126 billion last year and are on track to lose another $48 billion this year, the council estimated.
Many travel bans remain in place. The White House is under growing pressure to lift travel bans imposed on visitors from the UK and EU imposed by then-President Donald Trump in March 2020.
The EU have indicated that vaccinated American tourists are welcome to visit this summer, increasing pressure on President Biden to respond in kind.
They have insisted they will wait for the
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