Airbnb bookings signal a travel rebound

14 May 2021

Image: © Ascannio/

With bookings up 50pc and revenue recovering, CEO Brian Chesky said travel’s rebound will be ’unlike anything we have seen before’.

Airbnb is starting to see some green shoots in the travel industry as bookings rose more than 50pc in the last quarter.

Announcing its latest quarterly earnings report, the company booked a spike in revenues after a gloomy 2020 for travel and tourism in general.

The company reported a 52pc increase in gross booking value, which was higher than analyst expectations. Revenues for the quarter came in at $887m, slightly higher than the first quarter of 2020 when the global pandemic first took hold.

It added that the number of cancellations has dropped as well.

Airbnb credited the roll-out of vaccines in the first quarter and the gradual easing of travel restrictions for the uptick.

“We surpassed 2019 revenue levels even though urban travel and cross-border travel, two of our strongest segments historically, have not yet recovered,” chief executive Brian Chesky said.

“We expect a travel rebound unlike anything we have seen before. Travel is coming back and Airbnb is ready.”

The company has still been hit by further losses, many of which are related to loans, the company said. Net losses for the quarter came in at $1.2bn with this consisting of a $377m loan repayment and a $113m impairment charge related to its offices in San Francisco. The company deemed this office space was no longer necessary given its restructuring and cost-cutting efforts.

While Airbnb is facing a rosier picture than it did just a few months ago, the global picture for travel remains a patchwork as outbreaks and restrictions still hobble cross-border travel in some regions.

Domestic travel in the US has been particularly strong. In its letter to shareholders, Airbnb said it has seen “significant interest” in summer travel in Europe.

“We anticipate the pace of recovery in Europe will continue to be heavily influenced by the severity and duration of travel restrictions, but believe we are well positioned to take advantage of the recovery as they ease,” the company said.

Airbnb and the travel industry in general will have to contend with lingering lockdowns and restrictions in Europe as EU lawmakers hammer out the final details of the digital travel certificate.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin