Pandemic has changed travel forever, says AirBnB boss

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Brian Chesky, chief executive of AirBnB
Brian Chesky, chief executive of AirBnB

The way people travel has been changed forever by the pandemic, the boss of lodging platform AirBnb has said.

Brian Chesky told the BBC the lines between business and leisure travel are increasingly blurring thanks to remote working patterns.

And he said people are opting for longer breaks with family and friends as they seek more "human connection".

"I think that what we're seeing today is an entire revolution in how we're travelling," Mr Chesky said.

"We used to live in one place - our house - go to another place - the office - and travel to a third place. And now all three of those places are converged," he added.

"All we have to believe is that employers aren't going to force all people to come back to the office five days a week to know that everything has changed forever."

AirBnB was hit hard when the pandemic struck, losing about 80% of its business in a matter of months.

Yet Mr Chesky said demand had come back strongly since last summer, while consumer habits had changed.

Zoom and other technologies that enable remote work had "fundamentally altered" the need to travel for work, he said - a pattern likely to stick.

Instead people were choosing to live and work away from home, not just for a few days or a week, but "for a month or the entire summer".

"Some people are deciding to hop around and not even have permanent residences," Mr Chesky said.

In a second big shift, he said people are seeking greater "human connection" from travel as they spend more time alone working from home.

In the US, extended weekend bookings by families on AirBnB were up 70% in the second quarter of 2021 versus 2019.

And the company has seen "measurable increases" in nights booked for larger listings and family trips this year.

New and cheaper destinations

As a consequence, Mr Chesky said people were trying out new and cheaper destinations, and focusing less on tourism hotspots.

"The world is never going back to the way it was, travel is never going back to the way it was. It doesn't mean nothing from the old world will return, it's just that we don't go back in time, we only go forward," Mr Chesky said.

Airbnb, which was launched in 2007, also announced it had passed one billion guest arrivals at its listings around the world.

It added that it now had more listings than the world's top six hotel chains combined have rooms.

Despite its popularity, the lodging platform has been criticised for driving up rents in some markets by taking long term accommodation off the market.

It has sparked protests in cities such as San Francisco and Barcelona, as well as tougher regulations on short-term housing rental companies.

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