‘Humble’ Airbnb going back to basics

Cantillon: accommodation website says it needs to think through its impact on cities and communities

Airbnb has decided to cull 1,900 jobs, and has axed a range of ancillary services and its magazine. This is bad news for its operation in Dublin, where its European headquarters is based

Airbnb has decided to cull 1,900 jobs, and has axed a range of ancillary services and its magazine. This is bad news for its operation in Dublin, where its European headquarters is based

 

Having started the year eyeing a $30 billion stock market flotation and plans for further expansion of its activities globally, the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in accommodation website Airbnb doing a “reset” and going back to basics.

In an interview with the Sunday Times magazine last weekend, Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky said the platform needed to change, having being accused by politicians, regulators and protesters in many cities around the world of facilitating over-tourism and reducing the stock of long-term rentals to the detriment of locals seeking to put a roof over their head.

“We grew so fast, we made mistakes. We drifted. We really need to think through our impact on cities and communities,” Chesky said in a wide-ranging mea culpa.

“We need to stop talking about changing the world or assuming everything we’re doing is good. The world needs to hear us be humble, and to see us take responsibility.”

The pandemic virtually wiped out Airbnb’s business model overnight. Chesky said it got over $1 billion of cancellations and had to make $250 million available to its estimated 700,000 hosts to help cover their losses.

In response, Airbnb has decided to cull 1,900 jobs, and has axed a range of ancillary services and its magazine. This is bad news for its operation in Dublin, where its European headquarters is based and where between 500 and 1,000 people are employed.

As part of this new normal Airbnb will partner with cities to “find a balance between what works for the city, for people who depend on Airbnb for income, and for customers”, Chesky told the Sunday Times.

He suggested that this would prioritise “small-scale, everyday hosts” over large-scale landlords, and involve a serious audit of who should be on the platform.

Chesky also pledged to give cities more data on its operations, “so that they can actually help us to regulate operations”.

This will no doubt be of interest to Dublin City Council, which has sought to regulate short-term lets (Airbnb was the biggest but not the only player in this space) with mixed success over the past couple of years during the housing crisis.

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