Like most travel and hospitality brands, Airbnb has been hit hard by COVID-19. Bookings are down, all marketing has been suspended and the company’s much-anticipated IPO is on hold. But at the same time as these taking dramatic defensive moves are put in place, Airbnb is taking bold steps to pivot and survive the crisis.
The company has launched a new Frontline Stays service to “help connect 100,000 healthcare providers, relief workers, and first responders with places to stay that allow them to be close to their patients – and safely distanced from their own families.” And they have also introduced Online Experiences that allow you to meet people from around the world to participate in unique activities without breaking lockdown. From $11 an hour, you can follow a plague doctor and virtually experience the empty streets of Prague during the Black Death and plagues of the 17th and 18th centuries. Or if that’s a little dark, you can meditate with a Buddhist monk in Japan, practice rowing with a UK Olympic rower or learn Flamenco with a dancer in Sevilla.
According to Head of Airbnb Experiences, Catherine Powell: “It’s so important for us to preserve the human connection that is at the core of Airbnb Experiences, and guests can continue to expect this connection with our new offering, globally and virtually.”
It remains to be seen how Online Experiences will help hosts, and Airbnb, get through the crisis. But the company should be applauded for pivoting so quickly and smartly in a way that serves their key stakeholders and stays true to their core values.