Airbnb bookings in coronavirus hot spots have collapsed by as much as 96% since January

People in Rome on February 25. Expert advice is that masks are generally ineffective in curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
  • Data from an Airbnb-rental analytics site shows huge drops in city bookings amid the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Beijing has seen a 96% drop since January, while Rome and Seoul, South Korea, have taken hits of 41% and 46%.
  • Airbnb was poised to go public this year, but the impact of the coronavirus has reportedly delayed its plans.
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With the novel coronavirus looming over the tourism industry, Airbnb has taken a hit.

Data from the vacation-rental site AirDNA shows that the number of Airbnb listings on offer has remained relatively steady but demand has taken a hit.

The drop is most pronounced in virus hot spots. From January to March, Beijing went from 40,500 bookings to just 1,600 – a 96% drop. Rome and Seoul, South Korea, saw drops of 41% and 46%.

AirDNA’s data was measured before Italy implemented its nationwide lockdown and likewise before President Donald Trump’s travel ban limited entry to the US from 26 European countries.

Cancellations of big events also appear to have hit Airbnb rentals. AirDNA analysed the cancellation of South By Southwest, which last year raked in $US16.1 million in rentals. This year, property renters in Austin, Texas, are projected to earn just $US9.8 million over the same 10-day period.

AirDNA noted that while the outlook was bleak for cities, more remote listings have been less damaged. “It’s important to note that the impacts are highly localised – that is, the markets affected are largely limited to where the virus actually is,” the report concluded. “This may seem obvious, but it’s important to recognise that the vast majority of vacation rental markets are not in all-out panic mode.”

The virus has struck Airbnb at a particularly sensitive time, as the company was planning to launch its initial public offering this year, beginning the process in March or April. Bloomberg reported earlier this month that the IPO might now be delayed.

Airbnb was not immediately available to comment on AirDNA’s data, but in a statement to The Wall Street Journal a representative said the novel coronavirus was “causing travel restrictions and other disruptions that have a direct impact on the travel and tourism sector and beyond.”

The person added: “Although nobody can know the extent of the impact that the coronavirus outbreak may have, we believe that history shows that when global disruptions happen, the travel industry has bounced back in the long run.”