The online apartment booking site says it actually had more bookings for the Memorial Day holiday this year compared to last year, and its delayed IPO may be back on for 2020.
If you’ve checked Airbnb lately, you may have seen how overnight stays in San Francisco are currently running well less than half of their previous $200 a night average. The sudden, curious uptick in “fully furnished” apartments on Craigslist was confirmed by the Chronicle last week in a report that “a lot of Airbnb listings are being offered as regular apartments now.” This is all because the larger travel industry has been wrecked by COVID-19, but Airbnb in particular has enraged its host community by allowing free cancellations
Yet there are some preliminary signs of a rebound, or at least travelers dipping their toes in visiting not-far-away locales. A CNN report on KPIX today says that “Airbnb revealed that it had more US bookings between May 17 and June 3, which encompassed Memorial Day on May 25, than the same time period a year earlier.” In other words, the platform supposedly saw more bookings in late May 2020 compared to late May 2019.
That claim comes from a longer interview with Bloomberg, and the unverified information comes from Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, who notes that people are booking getaways that are fairly close driving distance from their actual homes. “People, after having been stuck in their homes for a few months, do want to get out of their houses; that’s really, really clear,” he told Bloomberg. “But they don’t necessarily want to get on an airplane and are not yet comfortable leaving their countries.”
Chesky has not always been entirely straightforward, and you’ll notice he’s cherry-picking the statistic of bookings and not, you know, revenue. Further, Bloomberg ran the question past analysts at the independent Cowen & Co., who reported that “Airbnb queries are down only around 10 percent.” Queries (searches) and bookings are two different things, but the discrepancy still makes you go hmmm.
It is credible that a combination of reduced prices, the lifting of sheltering orders, and increased remote work capabilities did fuel a Memorial Day weekend spike of family trips or romantic getaways. The site says that they saw an uptick in bookings in, according to Bloomberg, “exclusively traditional vacation rental markets such as Big Bear Lake in southern California, the Smoky Mountains, along the Tennessee-North Carolina border, and Port Aransas in Texas.”
You will recall that Airbnb laid off 25 percent of its workforce in early May, but this Memorial Day booking surge has Chesky again chatting up the company’s long-delayed IPO, originally scheduled for this year, back when we expected 2020 to be an “I.P.O.-palooza” that would make the city “drown in millionaires.” Chesky told Bloomberg, “We’re not ruling out going public this year and we’re not committing to it.”
SFist has had plenty of fun mocking Airbnb over the years, and the company’s negative effect of the Bay Area housing stock has continued to be a problem. But make no mistake, we are delighted to see any indication of an economic recovery, and in the travel sector, these little trips on the non-traditional vacation lodging platforms may be where the rebound begins. Airbnb may have seen the first sign of that, though they have not fully furnished us with the proof.