Airbnb sees surging demand for rentals following lockdown

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Airbnb announces massive layoffs in light of coronavirus.

It’s no secret that millions of people are antsy to get back out in public following months of COVID-19 related lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. However, traditional summer vacations are out of the question. Things like air travel, theme parks, and major cities are still very different. Moreover, the virus has stretched finances thin, leaving many people without the funds to take a large trip.

All of those factors have made local getaways even more popular. Airbnb is in the perfect position to thrive off of that trend. Per a Bloomberg report, the company claims that it is seeing a surge in rental bookings.

A Small Bright Spot

The travel industry hasn’t had much to smile about in recent months. It has been all but shut down by the coronavirus pandemic. However, Airbnb’s latest data is a small bright spot.

The home-sharing startup wasn’t unaffected by the virus. Amid global lockdowns, its business faltered since no one was looking to rent vacation homes. At the start of May, Airbnb was forced to lay off 25 percent of its staff due to the slowdown. Back in April, the startup predicted a 54 percent decline in annual revenue for 2020.

While things aren’t all better yet, it appears that Airbnb is on the road to recovery. Its CEO, Brian Chesky, notes that the number of US bookings between May 17 and June 3 was higher than it was during the same period in 2019. Similar trends are also being observed in other countries, including Germany, Portugal, South Korea, and New Zealand.

Airbnb notes that, since the start of the pandemic, over half of its bookings are rentals within 200 miles of a customer’s home location. That’s an upward shift from just a third of bookings being local in February. Chesky notes that many people are changing their travel “from airplane to car.”

Rentals aren’t just for travel, though. Airbnb and its home-sharing competitors (like VRBO) are also seeing more people shift their preferences from short international trips to longer domestic ones.

Meanwhile, since millions of employees are now working remotely and can do so from anywhere, vacation homes are an intriguing choice. Long-term bookings can help people maintain adequate social distancing better than a hotel room.

Long-Term Shift?

Like most things going on in the business world, it’s unclear how long these trends will last. The May 17 date noted earlier is significant. It is the week when many states, including New York, started loosening their lockdown restrictions.

As such, it could mean that people just wanted a one-off getaway to escape the boredom of quarantine. Or, because of the growing acceptance of permanent remote work, it could become a long-lasting trend. The fact that a COVID-19 vaccine likely won’t be ready until next year further reinforces the attractiveness of local, low-key getaways through a service like Airbnb.

As for the home-sharing startup, the future remains full of unknowns. Prior to the pandemic, it was on track for an initial public offering (IPO) this spring. The startup has since postponed those plans. However, Chesky notes that it hasn’t entirely ruled out going public in 2020.

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