Airbnb Has Mo Money, Mo Problems

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The pandemic supplied Airbnb with lots of problems, but returning demand isn’t one of them.

Last summer, its Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky said Covid-19 wiped out nearly everything his company had built over 12 years in a matter of weeks. Now, with vaccines widely circulating, Mr. Chesky says we are about to have a travel rebound “unlike anything we have seen before.” He should be careful what he wishes for.

The home-sharing giant reported first-quarter topline results on Thursday that topped Wall Street estimates in a big way. Revenue of $887 million was 23% higher than analysts polled by FactSet had estimated. But the more telling comparison is relative to other online travel platforms: Airbnb grew revenue 5% year on year, while Expedia Group , Booking Holdings and Marriott International reported that their revenue fell by an average of more than 48% over the same period.

Average daily rates rose on Airbnb in the first quarter from last year given a shift in supply and demand for more desirable alternative accommodations such as single family homes. Furthermore, last year’s revenue number was significantly impacted by cancellations when the pandemic first hit.

Perhaps most impressive is that Airbnb said its gross bookings value grew by a whopping 50% in the first quarter from a year earlier and 3% over the same period of 2019, indicating that consumers have grown more confident in their ability to travel again. This level of consumer demand hasn’t been seen industrywide: Both Booking and Expedia reported declines in year-over-year bookings in their first quarter earnings results last week.

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