Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky predicts a “travel revolution”, as businesses prepare for the post-pandemic surge in bookings

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Source: Airbnb.

Airbnb chief executive Brian Chesky has predicted a post-COVID-19 “travel revolution”, with employees setting up work-from-home offices and settling in for longer than ever before.

But Aussie travel companies are also gearing up for an influx of business, and a shift in the way consumers approach their trips.

In its 2021 Winter Release, Airbnb unveiled more than 100 upgrades to its service, including those making it easier for hosts to cater to travellers’ post-pandemic needs.

That includes things like translation capabilities, accessibility reviews and more comprehensive insurance cover. But it also means encouraging longer stays as more workplaces allow employees to work from anywhere.

Predictably, Chesky sees those employees logging in from an Airbnb.

One of the announcements details a widget allowing hosts to verify WiFi speeds, so “you can be confident that you won’t miss a Zoom”.

“Millions of people can now travel anytime, anywhere, for any length, and even live anywhere on Airbnb,” Chesky said in the statement.

“This is a travel revolution.”

Closer to home, there are local companies readying themselves too.

When the Fijian government announced it was reopening borders to Australia travellers, Luxury Escapes reportedly saw its biggest weekend of bookings ever.

Flight Centre has unveiled its new, revamped system for corporate travel managers, and Qantas has launched points partnerships with share trading fintech Superhero and Queensland e-signature startup Annature.

Back in October, travel tech startup Travlr raised $6.7 million in funding, ahead of an overseas expansion push.

The startup, which licenses booking software for trips and experiences, also inked a deal with BBC Global News.

While raising during the pandemic posed some “pretty tough headwinds”, the round showed investor confidence, and a level of trust in Travlr’s business model for post-pandemic travel, founder and chief executive Simon te Hennepe tells SmartCompany.

He agrees we’re a surge in travel bookings, but says it will come in phases. Domestically he’s already seeing a spike.

Over the next three months, he expects to see “multi-generational travel” as people look to reconnect with family members.

There will also be a phase of travellers using vouchers from cancellations dating back to early 2020. According to te Hennepe, about 8-10% of the average annual travel spend is currently held up in vouchers.

By February, he expects to see confidence in travel picking up, and more people spending cash.

After that, the bigger shift is imminent. After operating remotely for the best part of two years, more employers will trust employees to log on from wherever they are. More businesses will also likely offer working from anywhere as a perk.

That’s a change Airbnb is clearly prepared for, and it’s one Aussie travel businesses should be keeping an eye on.

For Travlr, te Hennepe says the key is simply continuing to focus on the experiences travellers want to enjoy while they’re away.

After two years of staying at home, travel is now about more than just getting a good deal on flights and accommodation, he says.

“If we’re going to go and travel, let’s make sure it’s an amazing experience … It’s something they can remember for years to come.”

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