Skift Take

Several fellow speakers aligned themselves with Brian Chesky at Skift Global Forum in a surprising show of unity among the dogfighting.

Brian Chesky boldly predicted a new golden age of travel at Skift Global Forum this week.

He thinks tourism will come back in an altered state because of the changes the pandemic generated, but returning bigger than ever.

Workplace changes on the horizon mean traditional business travel reduces as more people will be untethered from not just offices, but their home cities too, the CEO said. The net result is longer stays, with remote workers having a deeper desire to travel if they’re stuck at home for long periods.

Skift Global Forum interviewees rarely saw eye to eye across the three days of the conference. If anything, some used the live New York event as a platform to take swipes at one another. But most tended to agree with the comments the Airbnb CEO made during the opening event.

Speaking on Wednesday, moderator Sean O’Neill, Skift’s senior travel tech editor, wanted to know what his panel made of Chesky’s golden age vision.

“I was glad to know that he figured out what everybody else figured out 40 years ago, that families and groups travel using vacation rentals,” said Carl Shepherd, investor and co-founder of HomeAway. “It’s almost 70 years old in the U.S., and 120 years old in Europe. It’s always been about families and groups traveling together.”

Meanwhile, Francis Davidson, co-founder and CEO of Sonder, was of a similar view. Sonder’s guests are 80 percent leisure travelers. But that could be about to change.

“It’s going to be very different,” he told O’Neill. “In some ways there’s going to be less business travel, but in some ways there are going to be other use cases that are very real. For our company, we’re comfortable hiring folks from all over, and we’ve 1,500 employees. There’s going to be a large proportion of the labor force that’s going to seek out new accommodations and providers to meet those needs for something that isn’t quite a leisure trip, or a business trip, but maybe something in between.”

Was Davidson on “Team Chesky,” O’Neill asked. Is Sonder well positioned to get that ‘bleisure’ travel?

“Yes, certainly, especially for long-term stays,” he replied.

Glenn Fogel, president and CEO of Booking Holdings, also referenced Tuesday’s session, which can be viewed in its entirety here.

“Brian said something about people taking more trips because they’re going to be working from home, and I hope he’s right … It’s certainly possible,” Fogel said. “The fact is, we’re all reevaluating our lives because of the pandemic. There’s the great quitting, I believe it’s called, where people are just leaving and saying I don’t want to work right now, I want to take time off, or I just don’t want to go into an office.”

Sebastian Bazin, Accor’s CEO, meanwhile, was asked for his outlook for the fall. “I was smiling when Glen (Fogel) was referring to Greg O’Hara and the golden age that’s going to come back, and Brian Chesky saying it,” he said. “I think they’re right. The envy for discovering the world, to socialize, and finally being able to breathe, and work from any place on the planet makes our industry as blessed as it was before.”

However, Hilton’s CEO still thinks conventional business travel is coming back as it was before. “Brian was here yesterday, and he thinks business travel is going away,” said Skift’s CEO and founder Rafat Ali. What was Chris Nassetta’s reaction?

“It supports their business model, so I’ll have a view I guess that supports mine,” he said. “In the end, businesses need to travel. The CEOs that are running big business know they need to get people back into offices.”

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Tags: airbnb, coronavirus, coronavirus recovery, hilton, homeaway, sgf2021, sonder

Photo Credit: Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky speaking with Skift Founder Rafat Ali at Skift Global Forum in New York City on Sept. 21, 2021. Skift

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