Airbnb’s flexible search — its “I’m Flexible” feature for those not decided on dates, duration or destinations — is a big hit, according to the company and in its Q1 2022 earnings it provided some additional evidence and numbers. It said that the feature was used 2 billion times in the quarter, up from 800 million in the previous quarter. This has lessons for the company including its potential revamp of search coming and learnings for other online travel companies to lean into.
In the earnings call, here is what CEO Brian Chesky had to say about it: “The reason we launched it is we saw more people were flexible. And the challenge is this for 25 years, travel search has basically been the same. There’s a search box. And the search box ask you where you’re going and it presumes that you know where you’re going.
In fact, you have to come to these websites for intent. And then it ask you, when are you going? And so most the OTAs aren’t really in the business inspiration. They’re in business of converting traffic into bookings. And this is good, but we always thought this — the Holy Grail of like online travel was to inspire people about where to go.
Now the results of I’m Flexible has exceeded our expectations. It’s been used 2 billion times and for a travel product to be used 2 billion times and people only use the trial product typically a couple of times a year is pretty unusual. So what are we seeing the results? I think the primary thing we’re seeing with I’m Flexible is we’re seeing a very strong amount of engagement with I’m Flexible people see a lot more properties in a lot more markets. We’re seeing people book properties outside of a lot of the popular tourist destinations, and we’re seeing an ability to redistribute travel demand beyond the top popular hotspots like Rome, Paris, Las Vegas, New York, Los Angeles.
So that’s really the most important thing that I’m Flexible can do. I’m Flexible can be in the inspiration game and point demands where you already have supply. And so our measures of success are how often do people come back to the website, how many properties do they wish list, how frequently they are engaged in the product on the inspiration side and on the demand side, how well are you pointing demand to where we have available supply rather than just kind of being at the mercy of wherever they think they want to go and when they want to go when they come to Airbnb. And so I think that what you’re seeing in the Q1 results is that clearly, the product is working, because I think that I’m Flexible as a feature has helped drive a fair amount of that growth.”