Airbnb posts a record Q4 as travel recovers post-pandemic

Airbnb is raking in the dough. The company reported a record Q4 today, beating its previous benchmark both in terms of revenue and net income.

In Q4, Airbnb’s revenue grew 24% year over year to $1.9 billion, according to the company, driven by an uptick in stays and Experiences, Airbnb’s curated selection of tours and events. Nights and Experiences booked increased 20% in Q4 2022 compared to a year ago, the company said, while guests stayed at locations longer. Gross nights booked in Q4 2022 for more than a week — a profitable customer segment — were 40% higher than in Q4 2019.

Cross-border trips in Q4 2022 were up 49% year on year, the company said, with outbound travel from the Asia-Pacific region showing the strongest growth globally as China lifted its COVID-19 travel restrictions. Coinciding with the climb, total listings on Airbnb grew to 6.6 million — the highest ever — as the platform added 900,000 active listings year on year.

Another boost to Airbnb’s bottom line, no doubt, was the company’s decision to stop offering COVID-19-related refunds. Perks for hosts likely helped, too, plus growth-oriented features like a toggle that shows the price of stays inclusive of fees. (While Airbnb said that the impact of more transparent pricing was neutral last year, it expects a lift going forward as customers price compare with hotels.)

Somewhat surprisingly, the decision to remove mainland China listings in July was a nonfactor where it concerned revenue, the way Airbnb tells it. During the earnings call this afternoon, CEO Brian Chesky said that Airbnb remains focused on outbound business from China, which it sees as a large (albeit slow-growing) opportunity.

“We think that there’s gonna be hundreds of millions of people that want to leave China to travel the world,” Chesky said. “We think it’s going to be the best way for essentially Gen Z people [based in China] to travel — I think they really want an authentic experience while traveling around the world.”

On the net income side, Airbnb notched $319 million in Q4 2022 compared to $264 million in Q4 2021, which it attributes to revenue growth and “expense discipline.” Unclear is the extent to which Airbnb’s embrace of a fully remote workplace might’ve played a role; Airbnb’s headcount is down 5% from 2019.

For the full year 2022, Airbnb generated $1.9 billion of net income — its first profitable full year. That’s quite a turnaround from 2021, when the company lost $352 million.

In 2023, Airbnb says it’s seeing “strong demand” and plans to focus on raising awareness around hosting, improving community support and building new products and services. Telegraphing one area of investment, Airbnb recently launched a tool that helps find renters an apartment so they can Airbnb it.

During the earnings call, Chesky mused that AI had an increasing role to play in bolstering Airbnb’s business.

“I’m really excited about the possibility of AI. I think Airbnb will uniquely benefit from this,” Chesky said. “The reason why is because Airbnb is a very difficult product challenge, which is, unlike hotels, we don’t have SKU — there’s no representative inventory . . . Guests left more than 100 million reviews last year. And just parsing through all these reviews is very laborious. I think AI is going to really benefit our long tail of data and the fact that our search problem isn’t really a search problem, it’s a [customer-inventory] matching problem.”

Airbnb stock was up around 5% as of publication time on Q1 2023 revenue forecasts of between $1.75 billion and $1.82 billion, above Wall Street’s expectations.

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