Written by: Kwong Yueting
2020-08-17 07:30Last update date: 2020-08-17 07:30
The new crown pneumonia epidemic is sweeping the world, and many countries have implemented restrictions on tourism. The hotel and tourism industries are the first to bear the brunt. The travel accommodation platform Airbnb is no exception. According to market news, the company may lose nearly US$741 million in the first half of this year. However, the company did not "wait for delivery" and actively launched a deep cleaning program and online travel experience, "Mashi" landlords and tourists.
In an interview with "Hong Kong 01", Airbnb's senior manager of public policy and communication in Hong Kong and Taiwan, Ma Peizhi, revealed that as Europe and the United States began to unblock, the tourism industry has shown signs of recovery since last month. Airbnb made global reservations in the first week of July. The number of times reached 1 million, back to last year's level, but the proportion of travelers within a booking distance of about 320 kilometers increased from 33% to 56%. He estimated that most countries will not lift travel restrictions in the short term, or that tourists need to undergo strict testing before they can travel. Therefore, local travel and short-distance travel will rise in the next few years, and people will tend to visit the countryside or remote places. Here comes the new normal.
Airbnb was established in 2008. At that time, the two founders rented out their home space to travelers looking for accommodation, which gave them the idea of renting out their idle listings. (Picture provided by Airbnb)
Airbnb was established during the financial tsunami. The platform allowed landlords to rent out idle housing through online matching. It is a classic enterprise in the sharing economy. The market value was as high as 31 billion U.S. dollars (241.8 billion Hong Kong dollars). It is too long and ﹙0001﹚. However, the sudden new crown pneumonia has almost stalled the global tourism industry, and Airbnb's operations have also fallen into "distressed water". According to Bloomberg, quoting people familiar with the matter, Airbnb’s adjusted losses in the first and second quarters were US$341 million and US$400 million.
Ma Peizhi does not deny that the epidemic has plunged the global tourism industry into an unprecedented "trough", and it is also the biggest crisis the company has encountered since its establishment. "Take Hong Kong as an example. In the past year, 1.5 million people booked overseas accommodation through Airbnb, and Hong Kong houses also received 540,000 people. However, after March this year, most countries have "closed customs" and people will not go out for travel. , It has a great influence on our department!"
Airbnb announced the layoff of 25% of its employees, involving 1,900 people, expected to ``cut'' revenue this year
Airbnb has raised 7.8 billion yuan from two funds to fight the pneumonia epidemic
Prepared for the worst
He continued that in the short term, the tourism industry is still facing many uncertainties. The company has prepared for the worst. For example, in early May, it announced that it would cut 25% of its global employees (approximately 1,900) and focus on basic business to reduce Core unrelated expenses. At the same time, the two private equity funds provided US$1 billion (HK$7.8 billion) in funding at the most difficult moment, and there was no major financial problem.
To stabilize the finances, we must also stabilize the confidence of housing owners and the community. Ma Peizhi pointed out that Airbnb has launched a deep cleaning program to teach landlords how to use personal protective equipment, steps to clean each room, items that need to be disinfected, and a preparation list of cleaning supplies to ensure that landlords take appropriate and effective methods to clean the house. Let guests stay at ease.
Airbnb launched an online "travel" experience in April, hoping that even under the influence of the epidemic, the online experience can still allow a group of experience masters to continue to earn income. (Screenshot of Airbnb webpage)
In addition, the company also launched an online "travel" experience, including professional coffee courses for national appreciators, high-intensity interval training planned by Olympic athletes, cycling, magic and bartending, handmade jewelry making activities, etc. Ma Peizhi said that people want to travel because they want to broaden their knowledge, get to know different people, and even want to escape the current environment. Simply put, they want to have a life experience that is different from usual. Therefore, Airbnb has conceived a series of online travel experiences. Even if you are at home, you can get a travel experience.
Local bookings in Hong Kong increased by 15% year-on-year in June
Back to Hong Kong, before the third wave of the epidemic broke out in June, Airbnb’s local bookings in Hong Kong increased by 15% year-on-year, and the top five tourist destinations searched by Hong Kongers were: Kowloon Peninsula, New Territories, Lantau, Outlying Islands and Hong Kong Island north. Ma Peizhi feels that this is because entertainment venues such as party rooms and theaters need to be closed, causing many people to rent houses with kitchens to "play and cook" with friends and have parties. However, he expects that after the epidemic, Hong Kong people’s favorite travel destinations will continue to be Tokyo, Osaka, London, Taipei, Thailand and other places. "In the past three to five years, Hong Kong people have liked to go to these places, I think. After that, everything is Evergreen’s choice."
Click on the image below to browse Airbnb's listings:
As of the end of 2019, Airbnb Hong Kong has about 13,000 listings (including: beds, rooms, and units). Many hotels or guesthouses will put their rooms on the platform. However, it is still not legal to rent homestays in Hong Kong. Are you afraid to encourage the operation of unlicensed hotels? Ma Peizhi believes that the market will always go ahead of the law. The current unlicensed hotels are probably the legal homestays in the future. The legalization of homestay operations is also a major global trend. For example, Japan passed the "Residential Accommodation Act" in 2018, Australia The New South Wales Government also passed similar reforms in 2018, limiting the number of short-term rental days for non-owner-occupied properties in Sydney to no more than 180 days. "In the past, Hong Kong people didn’t have a lot of time to disturb Hong Kong in a year, so that people who run homestays can make good use of their vacant land assets and they can also get more income. However, Hong Kong’s small living space and many building units are the most important solution. Safety issues also reduce the impact on neighbors."
Now that the tourism industry has stopped, it is a good time to review the regulatory methods of homestays. He hopes that there will be more opportunities to communicate with the Hong Kong government in the future. He believes that the tourism industry is a very resilient industry. Even in the face of political conflicts in different periods, the financial turmoil in 1997 and the financial tsunami in 2008, the industry will usher in recovery afterwards, so he is optimistic about the long-term prospects of the industry. In fact, when the number of bookings on the platform rebounded, Airbnb even announced its listing plan in mid-July. Founder and CEO Brian Chesky said at the time that it had not ruled out the possibility of listing within this year, but there was no clear timetable for the time being. According to the "Wall Street Journal" report, Airbnb plans to submit a confidential initial public offering (IPO) application to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) later this month.
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