The coronavirus pandemic devasted Airbnb's (ABNB -0.14%) business. In the midst of a spreading deadly virus, folks were hesitant to get on planes and travel someplace for vacation.
The pandemic also altered Airbnb's business and changed the way people use the company's services. For instance, because many were working from home, they did not have to stay in one place while working. People could work from an Airbnb in Los Angeles for three months, then from another in San Diego for the next two. The shift in consumer behavior is blurring the line between traveling and living.
Remote work gives people lifestyle flexibility
The company's first-quarter report noted that stays of 28 days or longer now make up 24% of overall nights booked. That was up from just 14% of nights booked before the pandemic. Commenting on the matter in the conference call following the earnings report, management said, "People are not just traveling on Airbnb; they're now living on Airbnb. And these trends are not going away. The world is never going back to the way it was, and that means that travel is never going back to the way it was either."
Fueling this shift in behavior is the possibility of remote work. If you no longer need to commute to the same office five days per week, you are no longer stuck in one location. This is especially true for folks without kids in school. You can live in one place for a few weeks or a few months and then pick up and live someplace else.
This will get a bit trickier in the next month or two as companies have started calling employees back to offices for at least part of the week. Still, many corporations have announced that remote working will be a lasting part of their operations. Others prefer the complete work-from-home solution and have made it permanent.
Those interested in the lifestyle options provided by working from home will have several companies to choose from. That could create a scenario where businesses that require employees to come back to the office end up losing talent to those businesses that allow working from home. In essence, the option to work from home can become a valuable perk offered to attract talent.
Short-term pain, long-term gain
Airbnb is well suited to meet this trend. The company offers consumers a wide set of available options based on their needs, whether it be a single room inside a host's apartment or an entire home on beachfront property.
This opens up a wider total addressable market for Airbnb. It can end up taking a piece of market share in the short-term home and apartment rental market. Consider a person who knows they will be living in a particular city for a short while, let's say two months. It is certainly more convenient for this person to find a place on Airbnb than to rent a home or apartment outright.
In the long run, the coronavirus pandemic may have improved Airbnb's business prospects. If the substantial increase in remote working options becomes a permanent consequence of the pandemic, then Airbnb will have suffered for two years to gain benefits that last decades.