Airbnb closed 2022 with an impressive turnaround as the pandemic-hit business reported its first annual profit on revenue growth of 40% to US$8.4 billion, with net income of $1.9 billion.
The company remains optimistic that tourism can fuel a greater comeback this year, particularly as Asia has fully reopened its borders, said Nate Blecharczyk, co-founder and chief strategy officer, during an interview with the Bangkok Post.
"We're a much larger company in 2022 than we were in 2019. In Thailand, we saw bookings double last year from 2020. A big part of our success is the ability to adapt to changing consumer behaviour," said Mr Blecharczyk.
The San Francisco-based company ditched 25% of employees in 2020, which he called a "very hard choice" after the company lost 80% of revenue during the start of the pandemic. Airbnb could not forecast when the tourism industry would recover.
Mr Blecharczyk said the company also applied other measures to create cost discipline and maintained those practices until now.
"We've learned some lessons and have been very cautious as we experienced so much pain. Despite travel coming back more quickly than expected and the company starting to accelerate growth, we still maintain discipline around our cost structure," he said.
As a result, the company's headcount grew by only a single-digit percentage during this period despite posting record growth last year.
Mr Blecharczyk attributed the fast recovery of Airbnb to early adjustment both in terms of maintaining a disciplined cost structure and upgrading services for customers and hosts.
He said people might not be able to travel internationally but they still want to get out of the house and travel nearby.
Since people can work from anywhere, they can also stay longer for each trip, which benefits the company that offers services not only in cities but also in rural areas.
With inflation and a looming recession playing an integral part in making decisions, he said Airbnb acknowledged such concerns and decided to make an improvement to its services to make their rooms more affordable.
"Every six months, we've been asking ourselves how the world is evolving and what consumers want. We know that inflation and the economy are on people's minds, so affordable travel should be a big topic to adjust our features," he said.
Mr Blecharczyk said 'Airbnb Rooms', which features an affordable price of $67 per night on average, was introduced this week in response to demand for people connection after the three-year hiatus during the pandemic as the service offers a private room shared by a host who lives under the same roof.
He said the platform has more than a million rooms that are in the home typically shared by hosts. More than 80% of this type of accommodation is under $100 per night.
To ease concerns about privacy and safety when sharing spaces with hosts, the company has introduced the 'Host Passport' featuring more information about hosts before booking.
Airbnb will also add clarity concerning privacy in the house, such as the exact location of the bathroom, whether in the room or down the hallway, and how the door locks are installed.
He said to support long-term stays of over three months, Airbnb will also greatly reduce fees after the third month to catch up with the rising trend of long-stay trips.
Anticipating 300 million people travelling and hosting on Airbnb in 2023, Mr Blecharczyk said this year will be an exciting time and the company is optimistic because Asia is fully reopened.
Given that tech companies in Thailand and Asia would compete by offering similar home sharing to lure tourists, Mr Blecharczyk insisted that with the scale of Airbnb, with 14 billion guests over 15 years, a unique and innovative platform and -- most importantly -- being the pioneer in this category, there are no services comparable to Airbnb at the moment.