Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky predicts a wildly different future of travel and living thanks to the pandemic, and it sounds pretty great

  • Airbnb, last privately valued at $18 billion, has revealed its initial public offering documents. It confidentially filed to go public in August. 
  • The pandemic hit the company hard. But Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky thinks that after the pandemic, there's going to be a big change in the reason people travel: They will be traveling for fun, not for work.
  • Previously, people traveled for work and entertained themselves with screens, and he predicts that pattern is about to invert. There could also be a rise in people choosing to live as digital nomads because they won't be tied to one city for their job.
  • Chesky is one of more than 200 CEOs who shared their thoughts with Business Insider on how the coronavirus will change the world. To read more, click here.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

As the coronavirus pandemic spread around the world, demand for travel plummeted to nearly zero. But on Monday, Airbnb publicly revealed its initial public offering documents. It confidentially filed to go public in August. 

The pandemic hit Airbnb hard. This year, travelers have booked 146.9 million nights or experiences through Airbnb, down 41% from the same period last year. Airbnb's worst decline came during the second quarter, with bookings down 67% year-over-year, before bouncing back slightly in the third quarter with a 28% decline from the same period in 2019. 

It's predicting that year-over-year declines will be even worse in the fourth quarter as COVID-19 cases surge. 

Brian Chesky, the CEO of Airbnb, which has a business model that relies on people's desire for community and exploration, has a few bold predictions about what travel will look like once the pandemic eases and people feel more free to venture out into the world again. 

Chesky is one of more than 200 CEOs who spoke with Business Insider in May for a project that examined how the coronavirus pandemic would change the world.

First, when it comes to leisure travel, Chesky said people would likely start off by booking more affordable trips that are closer to home. 

Plus, with unemployment remaining at a high level, trips abroad will likely be out of the question for many, even once it is safe to resume travel.

Traveling for fun, not for work

Chesky said business travel could also look substantially different in the future. 

"I think we're seeing that you can do a lot videoconferencing, and that's going to have a big impact on how often people travel for work," Chesky said.

Chesky's thoughts around business travel were echoed by several other CEOs who spoke with Business Insider. Many said they would be more selective when scheduling work trips in the future.

"We used to do a lot of travel for work, and then we entertained ourselves on screens. That's going to inverse," Chesky said. "I think we'll work more on screens and entertain ourselves in the real world."

Many people watching the travel industry have predicted that vacations will come back before business trips do. The road trip, in particular, might see a resurgence.

"As home-isolation orders are lifted, yet physical distancing remains top of mind, we anticipate road trips and personal auto travel will rebound faster than group travel," Andre Haddad, the CEO of the car-sharing platform Turo, told Business Insider.

The freedom to choose where — and how — you want to live

The CEO is also predicting a different trend, one that is in direct opposition to the idea that more people will want to travel locally. He said there could be a rise in people choosing to live as digital nomads and that the home-sharing company would focus more on longer-term stays to accommodate those needs.

People choosing to work remotely while traveling to different countries was already a growing trend before the coronavirus. Some have said that the pandemic has exacerbated common issues in cities — population density and a high cost of living, to name a few — that will eventually lead to a mass exodus from America's urban centers. 

"Many people are realizing they don't have to be tethered to one city. So you'll see more people who are going to choose to live around the world, spending a few months at a time in different places," Chesky said.

This idea was echoed by Eventbrite CEO Julia Hartz, who said the Spanish flu of 1918 was followed by a period of renewed human connection in the Roaring '20s.

"We will return together through live gatherings as we did following the Spanish flu," Hartz said.

Likewise, Chesky is confident that people will still want to travel in the future. 

"In 1950, 25 million people crossed a border, and last year 1.4 billion people did. That happened because there is an innate human desire to travel, to explore, and that is never going to go away," he said. "Travel may be on pause, but it's going to come back."

Troy Wolverton contributed reporting.

Axel Springer, Insider Inc.’s parent company, is an investor in Airbnb.

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