Airbnb holiday bookings soar as Covid restrictions ease

Airbnb has reported a surge in bookings as coronavirus restrictions are eased in some countries.

The value of bookings made by holidaymakers shot up 52% year on year to $10.3bn (£7.3bn) in the first quarter, with locations outside city centres and rural areas proving particularly popular.

The San Francisco-based company said the recovery in bookings is being led by families and small groups, as opposed to solo travellers, while there has also been a jump in bookings for longer-term stays.

Almost a quarter of nights booked in the first three months of the year were for stays of 28 days or longer, up from 14% in pre-pandemic 2019.

“Increasing numbers of guests are discovering that they do not need to be tethered to one location to live and work,” Airbnb said.

The company reported 64.4m nights and experiences booked, up 39% from the fourth quarter and up 13% year over year. Booking nights dropped in every quarter last year compared with the same period in 2019.

In the US, searches for summer travel by those aged 60 and over, the first groups to be vaccinated, soared more than 60% in February and March.

Airbnb experienced “steady improvement” in Europe, led by the UK and France, where some travel restrictions have been lifted, with “strong” domestic travel bookings.

“We have seen significant interest in summer travel in Europe, especially in areas such as non-urban destinations in the UK,” the company said.

Airbnb’s total revenues rose 5% to $887m in the first quarter, compared with a 22% decline in the fourth quarter, with total losses rising to $1.17bn as the company paid back loans taken out to weather the pandemic.

“There has been a rise in staycations around the world, with more groups and families holidaying together, switching from popular tourist spots to more isolated rural retreats,” said Susannah Streeter, a senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown. “Guests are also staying for much longer periods and that trend could help reduce the number of complaints from neighbours about rowdy weekend revellers, which has plagued the company in recent years.”

The company said it expected second-quarter revenues to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels but said there was uncertainty over the second half of the year, given the development and spread of mutant strains of Covid-19.

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