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As the coronavirus pandemic forced consumers to stay home, Airbnb customers cancelled more than $1 billion in bookings, and the home rental startup laid off 1,900 employees and postponed its filing to go public on the stock market. In recent weeks, however, to the company’s surprise, bookings have come back in force—and Airbnb is now on track to do more business in 2020 than it did the year before, CEO Brian Chesky says on the latest episode of Leadership Next.
Between the end of March and early June, Airbnb had more bookings in the U.S. than over the same period in 2019, and could potentially even surpass its original expectations, Chesky says on the podcast, hosted by Fortune‘s Alan Murray and Ellen McGirt. “It’s not fully recovered, but it’s recovering way faster than any one of us imagined,” Chesky says. “We are above where we were last year, and we could get even higher than what we would have forecast before COVID.”
Still, Chesky is cautious not to celebrate too soon. He notes that at the beginning of the pandemic, many people questioned whether the company had a future at all amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.
“There’s been no comeback yet. It’s too early,” he says. “There may be this false pent up demand. We don’t know.”
So far, though, there’s reason to be optimistic. “I can tell you there is no model that we, nor any bankers we worked with, that had any recovery like this even happening in this year, let alone in the beginning of June,” Chesky adds. “It has exceeded kind of everything we expected.”
Airbnb had planned to file for a 2020 initial public offering on March 31, Chesky tells Murray and McGirt. But the company decided to push off the filing as its business plunged into crisis, instead raising $1 billion in debt and equity financing in April while slashing its valuation.
Now, though, with the business looking up, Chesky thinks an IPO could still be on the table for 2020. “At this point I can tell you that we’re not committing to go public this year, but we are absolutely not ruling it out,” he says. “And every week, every month that the recovery is stronger, the market’s more stable, we gain more optionality…. So it’s really a matter of, when is the world ready for us?”
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