Business

Airbnb South America bets on resumption soon with bookings for unusual cities

In an interview with Valor Econômico newspaper, the company's managing director for South America said that the bookings for December are already at the same level as 2019 for this period of the year

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  • For now, the company has noticed an increase in long-term reserves;
  • But after the COVID-19 pandemic, Airbnb believes that the greatest demand will be for trips by car, to places up to 300 kilometers from travelers’ homes–and reservations for December this year and January 2021 already indicate this.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures, the travel industry was severely hit and Airbnb saw its business practically stop. A considerable setback for a year that began with great expectations because of the Tokyo Olympics and a possible debut in the stock market.

Due to the pandemic, Airbnb cut about 25% of its staff (including a part in Brazil), launched a different policy of reservations and cancellations, and created a $250 million fund to support its hosts. In addition, it borrowed more than $2 billion from its investors.

Now, after the initial plummet, the startup is seeing an increase in travel intentions and expects a quick resumption. At least in South America.

Leonardo Tristão, managing director of Airbnb for South America, told Valor Econômico that the bookings for December are already at the same level as 2019 for this period of the year. For January 2021, the volume is even higher. He said that the tendency is that after the crisis travelers behave differently, favoring car trips to domestic destinations closer to home, up to 300 kilometers away, and places fewer visitors. “The resumption will happen. The signs are very encouraging,” he said.

READ ALSO: Airbnb launches new virtual experiences with Olympics, Pride and TikTok stars

During the pandemic, a change in user behavior was noticed: a significant increase in long-term reserves. Traditionally, Airbnb’s accommodations are used for short-term stays, for leisure travel, and, to a lesser extent, for business. In April, reservations over 28 days in the same city grew 34% compared to 2019. In May, it was more than 42%. Tristão’s assessment is that many families decided to look for a larger place to stay, or even to isolate family members belonging to COVID-19 risk groups.

READ ALSO: Airbnb reports surge in demand for local holidays and short stays

Last week, Airbnb announced an agreement with the São Paulo State Government to exchange information and promote tourism. It was the first region in South America to receive the initiative, which has already been adopted in the United States, France, Denmark, South Africa, and South Korea.

Another factor that will gain relevance when choosing a destination, according to Tristão, is the cleanliness of accommodations. In April Airbnb launched a protocol with recommendations on how to do it, what products to use, and hosting intervals. Those who comply with the protocol receive a specific identification and can release reservations within 24 hours, those who don’t have a longer period of time between accommodations, of 72-hour. Brazilians can now adopt this protocol.