- Airbnb is expected to make significant gains from increased travel demand after the US loosened international travel restrictions.
- Recent data from Airbnb shows that foreign bookings increased 44% after the US announced it was reopening to foreign travelers.
- A travel expert told Insider this is just the start of a steady incline the travel industry will begin to see in the coming year.
The reopening of US borders to international visitors revealed a pent-up demand for travel that is already prompting a boom in bookings for hospitality companies like Airbnb.
According to recent data from Airbnb, bookings from foreign guests rose 44% immediately following the initial announcement that the US would relax international travel restrictions to 33 countries beginning November 8. In a report shared on Tuesday, the company said it’s seen a rise in cross-border traveling, with an uptick of guests booking trips over 3,000 miles (4,828km) from home.
Many of these trips are to the US, which “historically is the largest inbound travel market in the world,” Airbnb wrote in the report. “As countries around the world start to loosen their travel restrictions, we’ve been seeing sudden increases in interest in these countries.”
Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at Atmosphere Research, told Insider that he anticipates the pace of recovery will be a “bit of a rollercoaster” in the coming months.
“We’re probably are going to see a surge of demand now and possibly another surge around Christmas,” Harteveldt said. “I really anticipate 2022 will be a year of steady, progressive improvement in business, with more people coming from abroad.”
Domestic bookings are also on the rise, the report found, with a 40% increase in bookings for Thanksgiving week alone as Americans look to spend time with family during the holidays amid increased national vaccination rates.
As demand for travel increases, cumulative TSA checkpoint travel numbers are approaching levels reported at this time in 2019, and more than double the numbers from 2020. Though air travel dipped at the end of the summer, Harteveldt said airlines are pleased with the advanced bookings they’re seeing from international points of sale outside the US.
The arrival of international visitors is expected to be a major boost for local economies and industries including tourism, retail, and hospitality which largely suffered during the pandemic. According to Harteveldt, global travelers are likely to bring an influx of spending ahead of the holiday season, as international travelers “tend to spend money in the neighborhood where they stay.”
And while Airbnb was able to attract travelers looking for a change of scenery or a fresh place to work from home during the pandemic, Harteveldt said the company still faces several challenges as it continues to recuperate from pandemic-era losses.
One such challenge is meeting booking demand as the company rebuilds relationships with hosts after it unilaterally returned travel deposits from hosts to customers at the start of pandemic lockdowns. Additionally, some consumers are wary of a possible COVID-19 winter surge, which could add another obstacle for the travel industry’s recovery if restrictions are possibly reimposed in the future.
“There’s still some challenges out there that Airbnb people face and it won’t be all entirely smooth-sailing for the category,” Harteveldt said. “But I think Airbnb is prepared financially from a marketing standpoint to compete for business, and I think will be successful in attracting customers.”