Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky Reveals Its Big Plans

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Skift Take

Today’s podcast looks at Airbnb’s new product, Marriott’s new take on U.S. domestic travel demand, and new opinions on the cost of Vision 2030.

Good morning from Skift. It’s Thursday, May 2. Here’s what you need to know about the business of travel today.

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Episode Notes

Airbnb is looking to make waves with the launch of nearly a dozen experience-based homes the company is calling “Icons.” CEO Brian Chesky discussed the new product, as well as AI, loyalty programs and other subjects in a wide-ranging interview with Skift Editor-in-Chief Sarah Kopit. 

Chesky described Icons as a “gateway” into the experiences category, which Airbnb has been eager to break into. He acknowledged Icons won’t be a classic revenue generator for Airbnb as the houses will either be free or low cost to guests. 

In addition, Chesky said Airbnb is working on implementing AI-powered customer service. As for a loyalty program, Chesky said the company plans to start one.  He’s adamant that it won’t be a points program, but said he’s open to other formats, including paid membership like Amazon Prime. 

Next, Marriott believes post-pandemic domestic travel demand in the U.S. is leveling out despite a global boom, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. 

Marriott CEO Anthony Capuano said during the first-quarter earnings call that North American travel demand patterns were normalizing. U.S. and Canadian hotels saw their revenue per available room — a key industry metric — rise 1.5% from last year. Chief Financial Officer Leeny Oberg cited Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America as regions Marriott expects to see a year-over-year increase in revenue per available room. 

Finally, Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in its tourism infrastructure as part of its strategy to attract more visitors by the end of the decade. But Middle East Reporter Josh Corder writes there’s a growing belief that the kingdom’s Vision 2030 is too expensive for travelers. 

A Wyndham executive at the recent Future Hospitality Summit in Riyadh said Saudi Arabia could become too exclusive for travelers, stating that three-star hotels democratize travel. Another executive said Saudi officials aren’t focusing on developing mid-market hotels, which he called the core accommodation for any city — instead opting to boost the luxury sector. 

Corder reports roughly 320,000 new hotels are expected to open in Saudi Arabia, and roughly 82% of them are in the luxury and upscale segments. 

Presenter/Producer: Jane Alexander

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