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Airbnb has become a proxy index for vaccine rollouts

May 14, 2021, 2:28 PM UTC

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While Airbnb’s valuation recovered quickly after the initial hit it took during the pandemic, its actual financials still lagged behind.

That changed in the first quarter of this year. Between January and March, the company’s revenue grew 5%, to $887 million compared to $842 million the year before. And in an even better sign, the figure grew even compared to the same period in 2019, in a quarter completely unblemished by a global pandemic. Gross bookings, meanwhile, rose 52% year-over-year to $10.29 billion.

Despite the growth in revenue, the impact of the coronavirus still looms in Airbnb’s earnings in other ways: Net losses for the quarter grew 132%, to nearly $1.2 billion, as the company repaid debts. That comes after the business took on $1 billion in debt and equity roughly a year ago to help it navigate the COVID crisis.

The travel booking company has weathered the pandemic better than many others in the travel space, owing in part to its asset-light model. It acts, after all, as a marketplace for listing rental locations rather than owning or renting properties outright. In the report announcing its earnings, Airbnb attributed the gains to the easing of some travel restrictions and yes, to vaccine rollouts.

“For guests aged 60 and above in the U.S., who were amongst the first groups to benefit from vaccine rollouts, searches on our platform for summer travel increased by more than 60% between February and March 2021,” the company revealed in its earnings report Thursday

This dynamic also works a bit like a double-edged sword. What happens if vaccine rollouts hit a hiccup, or new variants take advantage of global gaps in the vaccination safety net, and travel restrictions also tighten as a result? The company acknowledged the continued difficulties in making that call.

“We continue to have limited visibility for growth trends in 2021 given the difficulty in determining the pace of vaccine roll-outs and the related impact on willingness to travel. We are not providing an outlook for the rest of 2021 at this time,” the release stated.In short: Global uncertainty continues, but for now, as vaccine rollouts continue, so will Airbnb’s fortunes continue to rise.

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: @shenlucinda


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