Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Short-Term Rentals

After Lehane’s Exit, Airbnb Taps Another Ex-White House Press Secretary to Head Public Policy

2 months ago

Airbnb announced Friday that it selected Jay Carney, most recently head of corporate affairs at Amazon and a former White House press secretary with ties to President Joe Biden, to replace Chris Lehane as global head of policy and communications.

Jay Carney
Jay Carney (center) at the White House May 20, 2011. Flickr.com shorturl.at/gsX19 Silartinitaly

Lehane, known for his hardball tactics in running campaigns opposing tougher municipal and state regulation of Airbnb, left Airbnb months ago, and joined a crypto fund. Lehane has many political jobs on his resume, including serving as press secretary for then-Vice President Al Gore from 1994-2000.

Carney has ties to President Joe Biden, having served as his director of communications when Biden was vice president. A former journalist, Carney was White House press secretary under Obama from 2011-2014.

Carney, who will begin his role at Airbnb in September, will be part of Airbnb’s executive team and will “work with co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky to ensure that as Airbnb grows, we strengthen the communities we are in.”

In a statement, Chesky said Carney is adept at community engagement “and is committed to ensuring that Airbnb is a force for good.”

Airbnb’s impact on communities can be multifaceted. On the one hand, it generates revenue for local businesses, including hosts, and makes travel affordable for many who otherwise wouldn’t be able to vacation in such fashion.

On the regulatory front, Airbnb faces an outcry in many communities around the world that it is hurting the quality of life, and contributing to a housing crisis as long-term rental properties get taken off the market, and turned into short-term rentals for tourists.

“The potential for travel to promote economic and social good has never been greater,” Carney said of his Airbnb appointment in a statement. “I’m thrilled to be joining Airbnb to help guide its work to connect communities and people through travel, drive economic participation, and help us discover that while our differences are real, they are overwhelmed by our similarities.”

Carney is a board member of Urban Institute, which Airbnb said works on issues such as affordable housing, racism and healthcare matters.

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Online Travel

Are Uncool Things Like Hotels and Booking.com Making a Comeback at Airbnb’s Expense?

4 months ago

Just look at their market caps — Booking Holdings $92.05 billion and Airbnb a humbling $77.8 billion.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Booking’s share price has notched “single-digit gains” over the last six months, while “Airbnb’s shares have lost nearly a third of their value.”

Reporter Laura Forman attributes some of the discrepancy to the comeback and relative affordability of urban hotels versus soaring rates for short-term rentals.

Not to mention, we’d point out, seeming out-of-control cleaning fees with little rationale for the heft of the cost.

Airbnb’s average daily rates climbed 37 percent in the first quarter when measured against the first quarter of pre-pandemic 2019, according to the Wall Street Journal. Citing STR data, the story said average rates for urban hotels around the world in April haven’t yet inched back to pre-Covid levels, while the average price of a room night for hotels as a whole has risen less than 15 percent in April compared to the same period three years ago.

Of course, as the story notes, Airbnb has the brand advantage over Booking.com as Airbnb spent less than a quarter of its revenue on sales and marketing in the first quarter of 2022 while Booking shelled out more than half its revenue on sales, marketing and related expenses.

Still, there’s a reason that Booking.com spends so much on performance marketing on Google even as Airbnb has reduced the percentage of revenue it spends on marketing on Google and elsewhere since 2020. The reason Booking.com spends so much? It seemingly is working.

The Wall Street Journal cited Sensor Tower data tallying Booking.com’s app installs in April as being 13 percent higher than in January 2020 while Airbnb’s app downloads fell 12 percent in the same timeframe.

“Ironically, Booking has managed to reinvigorate interest in its namesake brand this year by promoting its tired image,” the Wall Street Journal said. “A Super Bowl commercial for Booking.com featured The Wire star Idris Elba mocking the brand as having ‘never been accused of being sexy, flash or lit,’ unless, he adds, ‘we’re talking literal.'”

We’re unsure how much weight to give to Booking’s Super Bowl ad — which seemed to underwhelm — in its app download number uplift.

The signs of life in Booking’s stock price compared with six months ago has a lot to do with the comeback of cities, the reopening of Europe, where Amsterdam-based Booking.com has most of its strength, and the relative affordability of hotels.

After all, while some people wrote off cities during the pandemic as being permanently scarred, Booking’s Glenn Fogel argued — as did Peter Kern of Expedia Group and Steve Kaufer of Tripadvisor — that urban hotels and cities would be back. It appears as though that’s starting to take shape.

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