Airbnb ramps up 2020 IPO plans amid management reshuffle

US: Airbnb has undergone another management reshuffle in preparation for the revival of its initial public offering [IPO] plans later this year.

CEO and co-founder, Brian Chesky, this week confirmed in an internal meeting that Greg Greeley, head of Airbnb’s core rental accommodation business Homes, would be stepping down. In addition, head of Experiences, Catherine Powell, will take up a new management role at Airbnb’s newly-created Hosting division, which will combine her existing work and home-sharing operations.

The management shuffle comes after Airbnb reported that guests had placed bookings for more than one million nights in a single day for the first time since lockdowns began in March, marking a key turning point in the rebound of traveller confidence.  an upsurge in bookings, including having its first day of one million bookings since March. Around 50 per cent of these bookings were in drivable destinations from guests’ homes [no more than 300 miles] and the average nightly rate averaged just below $100, according to short-term rental data provider AirDNA.

Chesky anticipates a further pick up in bookings as travel restrictions ease across the world in preparation for the summer holiday season, albeit a very different looking one.

He said of the management changes: “Our business has not recovered, but we are seeing encouraging signs. If we’re going to get back to our roots, we must get back to great hosting.”

Addressing the current market and possibility of reviving Airbnb’s IPO, Chesky said: “When the market is ready, we will be ready. We were down, but we’re not out.”

As well as being Airbnb’s president of Homes and one of its most senior executives, Greeley is departing the company, two years after being brought in from Amazon Prime to stabilise the platform’s core rental business. Chesky described him as “an incredible partner”.

Meanwhile, Powell, a British executive at the likes of Walt Disney and BBC Worldwide, only joined Airbnb at the turn of the year to lead the company’s Experiences division, which launched four years ago. She replaced the long-serving Joe Zadeh, now chief stakeholder officer, in the role, and she will now head up Airbnb’s new Hosting division, of which little is currently known.

In June, Airbnb reported an acceleration in bookings for listings across the United States between 17 May and 3 June despite the outbreak of the coronavirus. Similar increases for domestic staycations were also reported in countries such as Germany, Portugal, South Korea and New Zealand.

At the time, Chesky would neither confirm nor deny that the company would be going public by the end of 2020.

If Airbnb does decide to plough ahead with the IPO, it would represent an remarkable turnaround in the company’s fortunes and confidence in the recovery of the travel sector’s recovery.

It was only back in February that Airbnb reported a loss of $322 million for the nine months leading up to September 2019, while the first indications that it would be forced to delay its public debut only came to light at the start of March, as organisers around the world began to cancel or postpone their events and conferences. CNN’s business correspondent Chris Isidore predicted that the coronavirus outbreak would have as seismic a shock for the travel industry as 9/11 did post-September 2001.

Since then, Airbnb has raised $2 billion in two separate tranches through debt, equity and a line of credit as it attempts to weather the storm generated by Covid-19. Then in May, it announced a round of layoffs, trimming its workforce by 25 per cent in a further cost cutting measure after previously halting all expenditure on marketing and new hirings.

In the company’s latest efforts to slash costs, it announced last month that it would be scaling back investments in hotels, its design-led Airbnb Plus program and its Luxe service, which targets higher-end customers. It also plans to produce more in-house media content and has halted proposals to integrate transportation services into its app.