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City travel is back: Airbnb reports higher revenue and longer stays

Airbnb says its bookings have surged in small towns and rural areas, and improved even in urban areas, which were hit hardest earlier in the pandemic.

Airbnb says its bookings have surged in small towns and rural areas, and improved even in urban areas, which were hit hardest earlier in the pandemic.

Online accommodation booking platform Airbnb has reported a $55m ($76.3m AUD) profit for the fourth quarter, reversing a huge loss a year earlier, as its revenue soared above pre-pandemic levels.

Airbnb says travellers are starting to return to cities around the world, after staying away from them and opting for more remote and outdoor settings since the start of the pandemic.

According to its website, the global number of nights booked in cities in the last three months of last year nearly matched 2019 levels. Urban bookings in the U.S. have already fully rebounded.

Airbnb says its hosts have been also able to raise prices due to an increase in demand. The average daily rate in late 2021 was $154, a 20% jump from a year earlier and 36% higher than the same quarter in 2019.

The company cited strong demand for rentals in North America and an ongoing shift toward customers booking entire homes and vacation destinations where prices are usually higher.

The company predicted that bookings and prices will rise again in the first quarter.

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Airbnb said the omicron variant of COVID-19 had less effect on bookings and cancellations than last year’s delta variant.

Virus cases are still at high levels in the United States, but the San Francisco-based company said summer bookings made by the end of January were running 25% ahead of the same time in 2019, before the pandemic.

CEO Brian Chesky told analysts on a call that he is confident cross-border travel and bookings in cities will pick up.

He repeated a longstanding theme of his: that the pandemic has freed some people to work remotely, leading to an increase in long-term bookings on the site.

A rising percentage of Airbnb bookings have been longer stays of 28 days or more.

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Airlines and many other travel-related companies were hurt by the surge in COVID-19 cases that began in December, with the rise of omicron. In January, U.S. air travel remained more than 20% below 2019.

Travel industry executives say, however, that they expect business to bounce back once omicron fades.

Sources: AAP and BBC.