Airbnb is cutting 25% of staff amid worldwide travel slump

The Four Percent

Airbnb Inc. is cutting 25% of its workforce as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pummel the travel sector.

About 1,900 Airbnb employees worldwide will be affected, Chief Executive Brian Chesky wrote in an email to staff Tuesday. Those employees’ last day will be Monday, the email said.

“We are collectively living through the most harrowing crisis of our lifetime, and as it began to unfold, global travel came to a standstill,” Chesky wrote. “Airbnb’s business has been hit hard, with revenue this year forecasted to be less than half of what we earned in 2019.”

The San Francisco startup, which was poised to be the blockbuster stock listing of the year, has raised $2 billion in capital and dramatically cut costs in a bid to weather the slump.

“While we know Airbnb’s business will fully recover, the changes it will undergo are not temporary or short-lived,” Chesky wrote. “Because of this, we need to make more fundamental changes to Airbnb by reducing the size of our workforce around a more focused business strategy.”

As a result, Airbnb will pause its efforts in transportation and scale back its investments in hotels and luxury travel, he said.

In an interview with Bloomberg in March, Chesky said the situation has weighed on him. “I’m not sure if there’s a more difficult thing that a CEO of a travel company could ever do than go through this,” he said. “You feel like you were T-boned, or like a torpedo has just hit the ship.”

Before the pandemic, Airbnb’s expenses had already been growing. In 2019, expenses exceeded $5 billion as the company sank money into new offerings aimed at increasing revenue before its highly anticipated initial public offering. The coronavirus outbreak has put Airbnb’s market debut in jeopardy.

Chesky is betting that in the post-pandemic world, travelers will want options that are closer to home, safer and more affordable.

“When we started Airbnb, it was about belonging and connection,” he wrote in the email. “This crisis has sharpened our focus to get ​back to our roots, back to the basics.”

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