Airbnb CEO: ‘We Are Ready to Step on the Gas’ for International Expansion

Day2 12 Brian Chesky Airbnb Skift 21 4475

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Despite risks from regulation and competition, there is a huge opportunity for Airbnb to expand further around the world beyond its five core markets. It’s a big world out there.

Airbnb execs have used the phrase “expanding beyond the core” to mean launching new products and services for guests and hosts, and also their hope to lift growth beyond the company’s main five markets: The U.S., Canada, UK, Australia, and France.

The new services for guests and hosts have been slow in coming. But expansion into under-penetrated markets picked up during the first quarter.

Airbnb said it continued to invest in “less mature markets” where growth in gross nights booked was more than double that of the five core markets, albeit from a lower base.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky leaned into that idea during the company’s first-quarter earnings call Wednesday: “I think at this moment, we are ready to step on the gas,” he said.

“And by stepping on the gas, I don’t mean it’s going to be a significantly greater investment, but a much greater velocity because we spend a lot of energy updating our products,” he said.

For example, Chesky said Airbnb recently updated its app in China, and the company is bringing some of those improvements to Japan and South Korea “because the applications work fairly similarly.”

Chesky cited the following countries as under-penetrated markets that Airbnb is focusing on: Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands, as well as China, South Korea and Japan. India, he added, would come a little later.

Airbnb might get better traction in Asia than other places, Chesky said, because of demographics and use of social media.

“In fact, I could argue that Airbnb might resonate better in Asia because there’s a younger travel population that’s not disposed to hotels, and they’re on social media,” he said. “And we are disproportionately social media versus our competitors. So I’m very, very bullish about that.”

Chesky also repeated previous statements that the company is working on expanding into other verticals, but he didn’t elaborate.

Is Airbnb a Better Value Than Hotels?

Chesky said Airbnb has improved its value for guests compared to hotels over the past year because supply has kept pace with demand, which keeps prices in check.

Chesky said several factors have led hosts to moderate prices:

  • Some 300,000 hosts lowered or removed cleaning fees after Airbnb started optionally displaying the total price of a stay before taxes.
  • Two-thirds of hosts now offer weekly or monthly discounts.
  • A tool for hosts enables them to compare the price of their listings to others in the neighborhood that are attracting bookings, and this encourages hosts to lower their rates.

“The net of all of it is that hotel prices are up year-over-year and Airbnb listings on a like-for-like basis are down,” Chesky said. He added that the comparison was between global hotel room prices in March, which were up 3% to $148, versus the average rate for a one-bedroom Airbnb, which saw a 2% decline to $114.

Airbnb Removed Thousands of Listings

Airbnb said it removed thousands of listings in the first quarter because their quality did not meeting standards. Excluding the deletion of these thousands of listings, Airbnb said active listings — excluding those for experiences — increased 17% year over year. When they are included, active listings growth was 15%.

Based on data Airbnb made public, we calculated that Airbnb deleted more than 150,000 active listings during the first quarter.

“Consistent with recent quarters, urban and non-urban supply grew at similar rates year-over-year,” Airbnb stated in its first-quarter shareholder letter. “We also continued to see similar growth in the number of individual and professional hosts and believe the majority of new listings are exclusive to Airbnb.”

The Financials

Airbnb recorded its largest first-quarter net income, $264 million, which more than doubled the same period a year earlier. Meanwhile, revenue jumped 18% to $2.1 billion. The net income mark benefitted from Easter taking place in the first quarter of 2024 — it landed in the second quarter of 2023 — and because the company pushed some marketing spend into the second quarter instead of the first.

The company’s second-quarter outlook would have revenue growth decelerating to 8% to 10% from 18% a year earlier because of the timing of the Easter holiday and Leap Day, both of which occurred in the first quarter of 2023, and currency exchange headwinds, the company said.

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