Airbnb says customers paying higher prices as travel demand rises

Airbnb’s first-quarter revenues showed a strong recovery in travel in North America as restrictions eased, with guests paying higher rates for bigger and more rural properties.

Airbnb’s quarterly revenue of $887m was up 5 per cent on the same period last year. Wall Street had expected $721m in revenue for the quarter.

The number of bookings — 64.4m — was up 13 per cent on last year’s first quarter, while the average daily rate was $160, up 35 per cent year-on-year.

Gross booking value — the total amount of all nights and experiences booked — came in at $10.3bn, up 52 per cent on the same period in 2020 when the pandemic had begun to affect travel, and 3 per cent higher than in 2019. According to FactSet, analysts had expected $7.87bn.

The company said the increase was driven by a shift towards more expensive bookings: more trips that included entire families, more bookings of entire homes, and more non-urban destinations. The supply of active listings had remained flat since 2020’s fourth quarter, the company said, although there had been an increase in the number of hosts offering non-urban properties.

Despite the strong revenue line, Airbnb posted a first-quarter net loss of $1.8bn, significantly more than Wall Street expectations of a $680m loss.

Airbnb said a number of one-off costs had contributed to the heavy deficit, including stock-based compensation, costs related to emergency funding it secured during the pandemic, and the ending of an office lease in San Francisco.

Discounting those costs — as well as interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation — Airbnb said its adjusted ebitda was minus $59m, beating analysts’ expectations, according to consensus data from Capital IQ.

The company said it expected bookings in the current quarter to be significantly higher than in 2020, given the heavy impact of the pandemic in that period last year. It said it expected the inflated prices to continue.

“With the increased availability of vaccines and the easing of some travel restrictions, there has been greater willingness by guests to search for and book travel later in the year,” Airbnb said.

It cautioned that its business was less predictable outside the US. A recovery in Europe, in particular, was dependent on the “severity and duration” of ongoing travel restrictions.

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