The travel industry is notoriously susceptible to economic downturns. When people need to cut back on expenses, vacations are often among the first to go.
But Airbnb is unique among its industry peers in its ability to weather recessions, according to Nate Blecharczyk, the company’s co-founder and chief strategy officer.
“For most businesses, a recession is not a good thing, and I would never wish for something that is not good for others,” Blecharczyk tells Quartz. However, he says, “I think actually we would thrive in a recession.”
Airbnb, after all, was founded at the dawn of the Great Recession in 2008—a time when many people were losing both their jobs and their homes. Renting out a spare room or an entire house or apartment proved to be an easy way for people to supplement their income at a time when money was tight. Acting as an Airbnb host would likely have the same appeal during a recession today, Blecharczyk says.
As for the question of whether people might forgo vacations during tough economic times, Blecharczyk isn’t worried. His bet is that people will still want to travel, but more cheaply—a desire that Airbnb can accommodate thanks to the company’s large inventory at a variety of price points. During the pandemic, he points out, Airbnb gained market share as some urban dwellers fled the city for rural homes where they could work remotely.
That’s just one way that Airbnb’s business trends have reflected ongoing changes in the way people live and work. Quartz spoke with Blecharczyk about how a variety of economic trends are currently shaping Airbnb’s future.
What a cooling housing market means for Airbnb
The US housing market is finally showing signs of cooling off—and Blecharczyk says that’s a good thing from Airbnb’s business perspective. “Housing prices have skyrocketed over the years, and sometimes that blows back on us where people are concerned about affordability,” he says. Critics have argued over the years that Airbnb listings can decrease cities’ housing supplies and raise property and rent prices, with one Arizona city going so far as to offer to pay homeowners if they rent out their property on a long-term rather short-term basis.
Blecharczyk says Airbnb is not a major driving force behind rising home prices. But regardless, he says, a more affordable housing market would help take heat off Airbnb, too.
Why Airbnb is betting big on remote work
Airbnb is backing remote work in a big way, from extending a work-from-anywhere policy to its own employees earlier this year to introducing new site features meant to cater to people who want to travel now that they’re no longer tethered to an office. Blecharczyk says Airbnb is already seeing the impact of remote work on business.
The number of new hosts under age 25, for example, was up 90% in the second quarter of 2022 compared to the same period a year ago. “I would speculate that it’s related to flexible work,” Blecharczyk says. Young people—particularly those who don’t yet have kids—”are not only traveling on Airbnb as guests but becoming hosts, and using that to subsidize their travels,” he explains.
Airbnb data also shows that long-term stays of 28 days or more are increasingly popular, having doubled in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the first quarter of 2019. Blecharczyk says that while some workers’ newfound flexibility is changing the way they use Airbnb, it’s true that the majority are expected to be in the office at least a few days a week. But he expects the popularity of remote work will continue to grow going forward, despite the best efforts of some office-focused employers.
“My view is that at the end of the day, for many companies, talent is the scarcest resource,” Blecharczyk says. “And talent has been loud and clear that they value [remote work].”