Airbnb just unveiled a big upgrade to its platform as the company gears up for a post-pandemic travel surge. (1) The upgrade includes more than a hundred changes with a focus on flexibility. Airbnb says that people need more flexible options because they are traveling more often, searching for new destinations, and are staying for longer periods of time.
Airbnb says the changes it made to its platform were inspired by a comprehensive analysis of its booking data and travel has changed because of the pandemic. According to the Airbnb Report on “Travel & Living”: “We are shifting from traveling at all the same times to all the same old places, to many of us living anywhere, at any time, for however long.” Airbnb describes this as “a world in which living and traveling are one and the same.” (2)
Airbnb’s Report on Travel & Living
The report says the number of people who see traveling as more of a lifestyle today is almost the same as the number of people who see traveling as a series of individual trips. People in five countries and three U.S. states answered the question.
The five countries included the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico, France, and Australia. The overall percentage was 39% for travel as a lifestyle and 43% for one-off trips. Florida had similar results but the survey participants in California and New York leaned even more heavily toward “travel as a lifestyle.”
Airbnb calls this kind of travel shift a “blurring of traveling and living” with three key trends. The first one is that “people are less tethered and more flexible on when they can travel.” Researchers say the number one response from people surveyed in those five countries is that they would travel more often because they can -- thanks to the ability to work and study remotely.
Second, people are traveling to a wider range of destinations. They are shifting toward the road less traveled and trying out new locations. For example, Airbnb says there was a big jump in the number of people searching for natural settings such as mountain, coastal, and rural destinations. But they are also looking for places within 300 miles of home, just not the usual places.
And third, people are staying for longer periods of time at their destinations. Airbnb says the average length of stay has grown from 3.5 nights in 2019 to more than 4 nights in April of this year. It also found that long-term stays of at least 28 nights have almost doubled. Those accounted for 14% of the bookings in 2019 compared to 24% of the bookings in the first quarter of 2021. More than half of those long-term guests said they were also working or studying during their stay.
The New “Live Anywhere” Trend
This “live anywhere” trend appears to be growing, as well. 74% of the people surveyed said they would like to live someplace other than where their employer is based. 11% of those surveyed described their lifestyle as “nomadic.” And 5% said they plan on giving up their homes to live full-time in Airbnbs.
In support of this new trend, Airbnb is offering three new ways to search on Airbnb. The new tools are called: Flexible Dates, Flexible Matching, and Flexible Destinations.
Flexible Dates allow a person to search for a weekend getaway, a week-long vacation, or a month-long stay, for example. That opens up the possibility for getting a place that might not show up if you specify dates because of a reservation overlap with someone else.
Flexible Matching will show results that might be slightly outside your search area, or slightly higher than the price you specified.
And Flexible Destinations offers a way to find unique places that you wouldn’t know to search for. These are one-of-a-kind properties that have apparently grown in number just recently. Airbnb says: “From adobe houses to wagons, Airbnb has over 170,000 one-of-a-kind properties to choose from and the number of searches for these unique listings has grown 94% so far in 2021 compared to the same period in 2019.
Airbnb has also added new filters to help people fine-tune their search results. That might include locations near certain points of interest such as a national park, and properties with specific attributes like an ocean view or a wood-burning fireplace.
Other changes make it easier for people to become a Host. The process has been whittled down to just 10-steps. The program is smart enough to help arrange photos, and will auto-fill some of the details with public real estate data.
Changes for guests include a faster checkout process, an easy-access arrival guide, a more robust review process, and easier-to-understand cancellation policies.
Airbnb is expecting a travel rebound “like no other” as more and more people feel safe enough from COVID-19 to travel. CEO Brian Chsky also shared another interesting tidbit with CNBC. He said Covid was sort of a reset button for Airbnb’s relationship with cities. He says: “A lot of cities that had too much tourism before... now have under-tourism. And they are reaching out to us.” He says: “We had over a hundred destination marketing organizations reach out to us asking us for help to drive demand towards them.” (3)
There’s lots more data in this report. If you’d like to learn more, you’ll find a link to the report in the notes for this episode at NewsForInvestors.com
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