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Team of Industrial Engineers


Airbnb – Navigating the Pandemic

The Challenge:

The pandemic severely impacted the travel and hospitality industry, and Airbnb was no exception. It had to adapt and innovate after seeing a 72% drop in income from the year in 2020. When the pandemic struck, consumer behaviour underwent a radical change. Travel bans and health anxieties caused a sharp increase in cancelled reservations.

The Strategy:

1.EVALUATE: “We did multiple surveys to understand what travellers want.” Amanpreet Bajaj, Director at Airbnb

  • Core business: Airbnb prioritised its core business, focusing on the needs of its host community and guests. This included addressing customer emotions, employee needs, and ensuring the safety and cleanliness of properties.

  • Market trends: They tracked the demand in two ways: when the booking is made and when the stay takes place. They observed that the demand showed a significant increase by 2021, with leisure travel driving the increase in overnight accommodations.

  • Consumer insights: Airbnb acknowledged the shift in consumer risk perceptions and consumption patterns during the pandemic, with an increased willingness to pay for social distancing features and kitchen amenities.

  • Host community: The company provided its host community with support and resources, including flexible cancellation policies, financial assistance, and online community support, to adapt to the changing travel landscape. 2.ADAPT:

  • Enhanced Cleaning Protocols: Airbnb prioritised consumer concerns by rolling out the Enhanced Cleaning Initiative. By addressing hygiene anxieties head-on, the platform not only reassured potential guests but also demonstrated a commitment to consumer safety.

  • Diversification and Personalisation: The strategies were adapted to cater to changing consumer preferences, focusing on unique, remote, and longer-term stays, recognising the need for personalised and secluded experiences during uncertain times.

  • Airbnb Relief Fund: A relief fund was established to provide financial assistance to hosts who were experiencing significant financial hardship due to the pandemic. The fund provided one-time relief payments to eligible hosts.

  • Quarantine and Isolation Stays: Quarantine and Isolation Stays were introduced to provide safe, comfortable accommodations for guests requiring quarantine or isolation during the pandemic. 3.INNOVATE: "We saw the rise of a very different kind of traveller. When we saw that the needs of the traveller were very different, we had to make sure that we innovate and we upgrade our service." - Amanpreet Bajaj, Director at Airbnb

  • Understanding the consumer's desire for connection even in times of physical distancing, Airbnb introduced "Online Experiences," offering popular activities like cooking classes, magic tricks, and escape rooms. These global offerings offered opportunities to engage with people, cultures, and places at a time when travel anxieties were at their highest.

  • Airbnb's "That's Why We Airbnb" campaign helped the company in India during the pandemic by emphasising the brand's core values of individuality, acceptance, and authentic travel experiences. It emphasised the plurality of choices and freedom in travel, aligning with changing consumer behaviour and the desire for unique and subjective travel experiences. The campaign reinforces Airbnb's commitment to creating space for all. 4.FLEXIBILITY: “What we saw was that the lines between living, working, and travelling got blurred.” - Amanpreet Bajaj, Director at Airbnb. Airbnb launched over 60 “categories” to categorise homes based on style, location, and proximity to travel activities. These categories help guests find unique places to stay worldwide. Airbnb introduced flexible dates and matching features in February 2021, allowing guests to search for destinations without specifying exact dates. The feature also offers flexible destinations, suggesting unique types of homes. Split Stays pairs consecutive stays for a guest's trip, allowing them to explore different neighbourhoods or destinations.

Take Backs:

Airbnb's handling of the pandemic showcases how deep consumer insights can be leveraged for growth and resilience and actually become an opportunity to deepen consumer connection and experience with the brand/company.

  • Resilience Through Adaptation: Airbnb's success in surviving the pandemic underscores the importance of adapting to consumer needs swiftly. The ability to pivot offerings based on consumer insights enabled the platform to remain relevant and resilient in the face of unprecedented challenges.

  • Consumer Trust: The emphasis on safety measures and transparent communication about cleaning protocols highlighted the critical role consumer trust plays in the success of a hospitality platform. Airbnb's strategies showcased the importance of prioritising and communicating safety to rebuild consumer confidence.

  • Agility and Responsiveness: The key takeaway lies in the platform's agility and responsiveness to shifting consumer preferences. By aligning their strategy with emerging trends, Airbnb not only retained existing users but also attracted new ones, demonstrating the value of staying attuned to the consumer mindset.





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