Airbnb sees rise in bookings but warns of Delta variant impact

US: In its latest earnings report, Airbnb has reported a 320 per cent increase in bookings this summer, but has warned that reservations over the autumn and winter could be heavily disrupted by the escalating outbreak of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in the United States.

While the global booking platform posted a surge in gross booking value to $13.4 billion in Q2, driven by tourists from countries with higher vaccination rates, Airbnb CFO Dave Stephenson said that he expected bookings to decelerate moving into the third quarter and go below 2019 levels, due to seasonality and lingering Covid concerns with the rate of vaccination also slowing.

Despite its shares falling by more than four percent in the early hours of trading on Friday, Airbnb saw its revenue for the second quarter shoot up to $1.3 billion, a 299 per cent rise on the same time a year ago and a ten per cent markup on pre-pandemic levels. The home-sharing platform also expects to post record revenue in Q3, significantly above the $1.65 billion peak achieved in 2019.

At the same time, Airbnb’s net loss narrowed to $68 million, an 88 per cent drop on the $575.6 million figure 12 months prior.

Between April and June, the total nights and experiences booked at the time of reservation saw a near-200 per cent rise to 83.1 million, surpassing initial predictions of 79.2 million, as travellers looked further afield for their vacations as Covid restrictions eased. Experiences continue to be a large driver for bookings on Airbnb but these are likely to decline in Q3, as the platform warned its investors of the knock-on effect from the uncertainty around the Delta variant outbreak.

Airbnb is not the only booking platform facing up to this uncertainty, with Expedia Group [which owns Vrbo] simultaneously reporting a dip in bookings and a rise in cancellations in the peak summer season.

Active listings in non-urban destinations are unsurprisingly still in highest demand, with the average daily rate for an Airbnb rental skyrocketing 41 per cent from a year ago to $161.

Airbnb is intent on leading a recruitment spree for new hosts, as it is faced with mounting competition from Vrbo.

Based on this, CEO Brian Chesky emphasised the importance of flexible bookings on a call with analysts, when it comes to where holidaymakers are travelling and how they are combined work and leisure as part of the work- and live-from-anywhere phenomenon. It should not be a complete surprise, therefore, that 28-plus day bookings are the fastest-growing category on the platform, according to Airbnb.

Chesky said: “Flexibility is now a permanent part of travel. We are going to continue to see more and more longer-term stays, and I think this is going to help us smooth out our seasonality over the coming years.”