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    Domestic travel rebounding strongly: Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder, Airbnb

    Synopsis

    Hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing travel bans, Airbnb has raised $2 billion to tide over the crisis and slashed 25% of its workforce. It also launched enhanced cleaning protocols and a certification process for hosts to effectively disinfect for Covid-19 so guests can search and book homes with hosts who have gone through the process.

    Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder, Airbnb
    MUMBAI | NEW DELHI: Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder of Airbnb, expects a big shift in the direction of domestic bookings for India after the lockdown and easing of travel restrictions.

    “India is a big country. Domestic travel is strong in big countries. The United States, India, Brazil, Germany. These are countries with big domestic markets. India has such amazing cultural history and sites and there are a lot of places to go to. We have 80,000 listings in India and domestic has always been a big part of our India business… 50% of the visits are domestic, and I would expect to see a big shift in that direction,” said Blecharczyk in an interview to ET.

    Domestic travel has also rebounded strongly for Airbnb globally in the last few weeks of May and early June, surpassing expectations according to Blecharczyk, though he still sees a long road to recovery.

    “From May 17-June 3, we have seen that domestic bookings, globally, are greater right now for us than the same period last year. We also see that stays in the US for that same period are greater than last year. The nature of travel is different and people are opting to stay closer home… They're cancelling their big ambitious plans to go abroad this summer and are instead making last minute plans to travel domestically,” he said.

    “And all this has happened very rapidly. Over the span of three months…we went from growing roughly 35% year-over-year in terms of revenue, to losing almost 80% of our revenue in the span of a few weeks and here we are…In the last six weeks, every week, we've seen dramatic growth…don't get me wrong, I think it's still a long road to recovery. People are still concerned about getting on aeroplanes and international travel will take time to come back,” he added.

    Hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing travel bans, Airbnb has raised $2 billion to tide over the crisis and slashed 25% of its workforce. The company has also launched enhanced cleaning protocols and a certification process for hosts to effectively disinfect for Covid-19 so guests in the near future can search and book homes with hosts who have gone through the process.

    Airbnb also launched a $250 million Coronavirus relief fund for hosts impacted by the pandemic, besides other measures. Indian hosts have also benefitted from that relief fund, the company had told ET in April. In a separate statement on Thursday, Airbnb said it is working with governments and tourist agencies to help restore travel in a way that benefits local citizens and small businesses economically.

    “One of the challenging things about the pandemic is it's very severe and the recovery period is uncertain. Going into this, we knew this was serious. So we had to basically make plans for the worst to weather the storm in the event that it is prolonged and very severe. That led us to raise more capital,” said Blecharczyk.

    “That also led us to cut costs. We cut our $800 million marketing budget. The executive team took half salaries, the founders forego their salaries. And we had to lay off about 25% of our employees. Because again, this is inevitably a prolonged event,” he added.

    Blecharczyk also said it is hard to predict what is going to happen over the next three months, but nothing is off the table for Airbnb, which was also working on its stock market debut this year.

    “There are many possible outcomes with regards to the IPO. Nothing's off the table. I think we're ready to go public when the market is ready. We're watching that. And waiting for unanswered questions… to get more clarity on them like, how fast is the recovery? Are we going to see a second wave or not?” said Blecharczyk.

    “We had planned to go public this year, the work is done. We're much more focused on growth and launching new products and serving our customers. And we can do that whether we are public or private,” he added.

    Blecharczyk is expecting a shakeup in the travel and hospitality startups space because of the crisis.

    "Most companies don't have a lot of financial cushion, especially startups. We're very fortunate that we are a large and well established travel company. We're successful in being able to raise capital. But now is a difficult time to raise capital. We succeeded because of our scale and reputation and prospects. It's a lot more difficult than it was three months ago."
    (Catch all the Business News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on The Economic Times.)

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    3 Comments on this Story

    Epistem Solutions106 days ago
    Sorry to say I travelled Guwahati to Bangalore the passengers were on fingers count because of restrictions put by several state governments that has to be removed then surely bit bounce back will be there
    Slug Slurry107 days ago
    where????? fake news.
    Ramana Rao107 days ago
    No clue. Living in a fool's paradise. More power to him.!!
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