Virus outbreak has cost Airbnb tens of millions of dollars so far

Bookings in key international cities are down amid COVID-19 pandemic

Mar.March 14, 2020 08:00 AM
Brian Chesky (Credit: Mike Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times, iStock)

Brian Chesky (Credit: Mike Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times, iStock)Brian Chesky (Credit: Mike Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times, iStock)

Airbnb has lost tens of millions of dollars in booking revenues over the past several weeks in key cities that have been hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

The home-sharing startup’s booking revenues fell dramatically across 17 key international cities over a span of five weeks starting at the beginning of February, according to analysis by The Real Deal of data from the Airbnb-analytics firm AirDNA.

Since the start of February, when the virus first began spreading outside China, Airbnb’s booking revenues declined by about 20 percent, dropping by $17.6 million. But that absolute drop comes in the context of an expected growth of roughly $30 million if booking revenues had continued growing at the same pace of nearly 35 percent the firm saw in those markets over the same period last year. That’s a swing of nearly $48 million.

“While the virus first emerged in Wuhan, its effects on the short-term rental industry are best seen in highly traveled coastal strongholds throughout Asia: Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo. After the onset of Covid-19, future demand throughout the region has retracted,” AirDNA’s report read. “Western cities currently facing the same potential for impact include Seattle, Austin, Barcelona, Milan, Rome, and New York.”

When reached for comment, a representative for Airbnb pointed to a blog post company executive Greg Greely published Wednesday.

“In the case of COVID-19, where travel restrictions have been put in place by governments or health authorities, our extenuating circumstances policy allows guests to cancel eligible reservations without charge, and the host is required to refund the reservation, irrespective of the previously contracted cancellation policy,” Greely wrote.

Bookings in Beijing plummeted by 96 percent, from about 40,000 the week of January 5 to 1,655 the first week of March, according to AirDNA’s data.

In New York City, bookings declined 21 percent during the same time period.

Airbnb on Friday applied its extenuating circumstances policy to the United States.

The global pandemic hit as Airbnb is getting ready to go public later this year. The company, which has a private market valuation of $31 billion, posted a loss of $322 million during the first three quarters of 2019.

Contact Rich Bockmann at [email protected] or 212-673-5081.

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