Nation & World

Airbnb sees surge in demand

Other vacation-rental sites experience boost

Brian Chesky, CEO and co-founder of Airbnb, speaks during at the New York Stock Exchange in 2017. (Bloomberg)
Brian Chesky, CEO and co-founder of Airbnb, speaks during at the New York Stock Exchange in 2017. (Bloomberg)

Antsy city dwellers seeking to escape their COVID-19 refuges are road-tripping to nearby vacation rentals in surprisingly strong numbers, showing the first signs of life for an industry that essentially ground to a halt in March.

“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,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said.

“But they don’t necessarily want to get on an airplane and are not yet comfortable leaving their countries.”

Airbnb saw more nights booked for U.S. listings between May 17 and June 3 than the same period in 2019, and a similar boost in domestic travel globally.

The San Francisco-based home-share company is seeing an increase in demand for domestic bookings in countries from Germany to Portugal, South Korea, New Zealand and more.

Other companies, including Expedia Group’s Vrbo and Booking Holdings also are witnessing a jump in domestic vacation-rental reservations.

U.S. searches for Vrbo are now up compared to this time last year, according to a note by Cowen and Co. analyst Kevin Kopelman on Monday. Airbnb queries are down only around 10 percent.

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However, hotels and the wider Expedia brand have yet to get any summer relief with searches still down more than 60 percent.

International sojourns usually planned months in advance are being replaced with impulsive road trips booked a day before, and weekend getaways are turning into weeks-long respites, Chesky said.

New Yorkers previously might have headed to Paris for a week in June. Now they are going to the Catskills for a month.

“Work from home is becoming working from any home,” he said.

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