Chesky shares vision for post-pandemic travel “redistribution”

US: Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has this week reiterated that the global travel industry will “never be the same again” as it was pre-pandemic, and that not only will tourists travel more within their countries but they will also look to visit and explore less-publicised tourist destinations.

While initially hesitant to make any concrete predictions for the future outlook of travel, he told CNBC’s Deirdre Rosa: “Travel as we knew it is over. It doesn’t mean travel is over, just the travel we knew is over, and it’s never coming back.

Airbnb has been one of the most well-documented travel companies to be hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with public outcry erupting over its refund policy, nosediving revenues, enforced layoffs of staff and increased hostility in some cities over its perceived impact on over tourism, such as in Amsterdam where the booking platform has been banned from operating in three districts. Despite this, Chesky shared his cautious optimism for the recovery of the sector, albeit a new vision where travellers will travel in a very different way post-Covid-19.

In previous interviews, Chesky has repeatedly pointed towards a “redistribution of where people travel”, whereby travellers will, in the short-term at least, opt to visit less well-known destinations over bustling tourist hubs.

Speaking to CNBC, the Airbnb CEO said last week: “No one quite knows what it will look like but I have a couple of thoughts. I do think that instead of the world population travelling to only a few cities and staying in big tourist districts, I think you’re going to see a redistribution of where people travel.”

Chesky added that the proportion of mass tourism choices, where travellers stick to “50 or 100 cities”, would likely decrease as mindsets change following the pandemic. In that sense, people may seek to travel more domestically and for longer.

In an interview with American news website Axios, he repeated his thoughts, as well as provided some other observations for how travel will change:

  • There will be an increased focus on working from home, whatever location, whatever property, as the benefits of remote working and online conferencing start to be realised.
  • Business and convention travel will take some time to recover, and business travellers will be more selective about which meetings and conferences they will attend, depending on location.
  • Interest in staying in, or in close proximity to national parks is set to boom, as travellers do not need to buy plane tickets if a park is a drive-to destination and they will be tempted by more “intimate, local travel”.

Airbnb is already evaluating its plans for the year ahead and beyond, as its thoughts turn to potentially moving forward with its IPO by the end of 2020.