Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky said the global travel and tourism industry might never fully recover from the virus-induced economic downturn, though he tells Axios in a Zoom interview, there's a glimmer of hope as travel trends will shift more domestically, and to smaller communities in a post-corona world.
"I will go on the record to say that travel will never, ever go back to the way it was pre-COVID; it just won't," Chesky said. "There are sometimes months when decades of transformation happen."
He said, "people are getting on airplanes, they're not crossing borders, they're not meaningfully traveling to cities, they're not traveling for business."
Instead, "they're getting in cars. They're traveling to communities that are 200 miles away or less. These are usually very small communities. They're staying in homes and they're staying longer."
Readers may recall, we noted in late March how city dwellers in Southern California were fleeing metro areas for rentals on the outskirts of Joshua Tree National Park, which was a move to isolate oneself from the virus pandemic.
"As the pandemic sweeps across California's largest cities, residents are fleeing their urban settings to isolated communities in the Mojave Desert or the rugged Sierra Nevada. The hope is that a remote area can reduce their transmission risk."
"People will, one day, get back on planes," Chesky said. "But one of the things that I do think is a fairly permanent shift is ... a redistribution of where travelers go."
"You know, everyone goes to Rome, Paris, London, they stay in the hotel district, they get on the double-decker bus. They wait in line to get a selfie in front of a landmark," he said.
"I think that's going to get smaller as a percentage of travel in the future, and I think it's going to get somewhat displaced, or at least balanced, by people visiting smaller communities," he added.
The redistribution Chesky describes is a reversal of international trips to more domestic ones, but instead of travelers going to big cities and famous landmarks - they will vacation in rural communities. The days of vacationing in New York, London, Paris, Rome, and Hong Kong are limited.
So who are the winners and losers in this emerging travel trend Chesky sees playing out?
- Airbnb hosts or super hosts with properties in rural communities, near state parks, or scenic views.
- Airbnb hosts or super hosts with properties in major cities.
- Commercial real estate in metro areas, such as hotels, resorts, and shopping malls.
As for all those overleveraged super hosts, we warned about during the pandemic, who saw rental income collapse - they could very well see depressing bookings for a considerable period while properties in rural communities see boom times.