How Airbnb is serving vacationers who don't know where they want to go

·West Coast Correspondent
·2-min read

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has seized the opportunity to fill the void in travel opportunities. The home rental platform, which saw a 5% increase in sales for the first quarter, has expanded into a portal for tourism. 

And as the lines between work and home blurred amid the coronavirus, people itching for a getaway found they weren't as particular about the details of the trip.

"It used to be that people came to Airbnb and they knew where they were going...when they were going, it's why on the homepage, it said, 'Where are you going?' You type a location and we'd have a date picker. Well actually, it turns out a huge percentage of guests don't know necessarily where they're going. They're flexible, and they don't know when they're going," Chesky told Yahoo Finance Presents

According to Chesky, "nearly 100 million searches" have been done using Airbnb's flexible dates option, which launched on Feb. 24. Instead of selecting exact dates at the beginning of a search, guests peruse weekend getaways or month-long staycations. Other travel booking sites like Skyscanner and Momondo are known for their flexible features, particularly for bargain hunters willing to travel during off-peak times.

Airbnb website
Airbnb website

"What that really means is that people are flexible. That means we can point demand, and if cities want to partner with us, and they want more travelers, we could potentially highlight those travelers to those communities. We just want to cooperate with cities. And if they want more guests, we want to be able to give them more guests," he said. 

During the company's earnings call, Chesky emphasized how Airbnb (ABNB), which once was perceived as a thorn in the side of cities all around the world, has now become a de facto resource to boost tourism and direct demand, and the flexible search portal allows a wider array of destinations to surface.

"We struck over 100 partnerships over the course of just the pandemic with destination marketing organizations, which are basically tourism bureaus... From Scotland to Portland, we've been doing partnerships with cities all over the world," he said. The company also launched City Portal last year, a tool that provides governments and tourism organizations locally-specific insights and data.

Melody Hahm is Yahoo Finance’s West Coast correspondent, covering entrepreneurship, technology and culture. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm and on LinkedIn.

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