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  • - [Presenter] This is a tiny home on Airbnb.

  • So far this year,

  • this listing has brought in over $20,000 for its host.

  • The typical U.S. host in 2021

  • earned over $13,800 according to the company.

  • - The tiny home doesn't cost a lot to build,

  • and yet it could charge hundreds of dollars a night.

  • - [Presenter] Airbnb posted a profit in its second quarter,

  • as guests booked a record number of stays and experiences

  • and hosts increased prices for rentals amid high inflation,

  • but people didn't book as much as analysts had projected,

  • and the company's summer bookings forecast

  • fell short of expectations.

  • - Obviously it's an incredibly dynamic period of time,

  • but I'm still expecting

  • an incredibly strong period of travel

  • even if people pull back spending some.

  • - [Presenter] So how did the largest

  • home sharing platform in the U.S.

  • navigate its biggest crises?

  • And could it borrow those lessons

  • to weather fears of a recession?

  • This is The Economics of Airbnb.

  • - Airbnb started

  • around the time of the 2008 financial crisis.

  • This was a time when people were really hard hit

  • by the recession,

  • and they were looking for a way to make an extra buck.

  • - [Presenter] In 2016,

  • the company launched Airbnb Experiences,

  • which let travelers book classes, tours, and outings.

  • Airbnb also spent more as it grew.

  • - The CEO branched out into all kinds of things

  • like he wanted to have a media studios,

  • he wanted to branch into transportation.

  • - [Presenter] And then the pandemic hit.

  • Business was down 80%

  • forcing Airbnb to take on $2,000,000,000 in debt,

  • and pause all non-essential projects.

  • - I hope I never do a side project again in my life.

  • I learned a lesson,

  • and I think the lesson is

  • when you try to do new things as side things,

  • they don't work.

  • - [Presenter] Summer of 2020 was a turning point for Airbnb.

  • - [Rana] People started quarantining with their families.

  • Friends started taking staycations

  • while they could work remote.

  • So that's something that definitely benefited Airbnb.

  • - [Presenter] Local travel became its stronghold,

  • and people started using the platform for longer stays.

  • The company was one of the hottest public listings of 2020,

  • though with stock price has fallen since then

  • amid a broad market cool off.

  • In August, Airbnb projected record third quarter revenue

  • on the back of higher rental prices,

  • and said it expects to post its first full year profit

  • this year.

  • - A lot of businesses have lucky moments,

  • but there's something to be said about getting lucky

  • and also being able to ride that wave and capitalize on it.

  • - [Presenter] That's what Airbnb says

  • it has done from the start.

  • - Back then in 2008, a lot of people turned to hosting,

  • because they were losing their homes,

  • high housing prices,

  • and a lot of people because they didn't have as much money

  • were looking for more affordable ways to travel

  • than ever before.

  • - [Rana] That really helped them

  • bring a lot of people who were looking for

  • ways to make up for lost income onto the platform.

  • And you can really see them capitalize on timing

  • during the pandemic as well.

  • - [Presenter] Airbnb redesigned its app and website

  • to focus on local stays during the pandemic.

  • Last summer, it launched a flexible search feature,

  • which curates trips for people

  • who don't know where they want to go.

  • - [Rana] The pandemic and remote work

  • gave us that flexibility.

  • You know, we could travel during the week

  • and still work remote.

  • So Airbnb starts noticing this trend and it says,

  • oh my God we can,

  • you know, we can sort of capitalize on this, and they do.

  • - [Presenter] In May,

  • Airbnb launched another redesign of its search tool

  • that split homes into more than 50 categories

  • as a way to steer people to places

  • they wouldn't otherwise have picked.

  • - [Rana] So what they're trying to do is

  • they're trying to fill existing homes

  • instead of adding more and more homes.

  • - [Presenter] Some analysts say

  • this is key to the company's future growth

  • since global occupancy rates are low.

  • When it comes to addressing safety issues on its platform,

  • some cities have complained that

  • Airbnb has been too hands off.

  • - They're not actively monitoring these properties

  • because frankly they can't, they don't own them.

  • So that's really where a lot of their problems stem from.

  • - Four people killed, another four hurt,

  • all of it happening in a house rented out on Airbnb.

  • - [Presenter] After a 2019 Halloween shooting,

  • the company announced safety measures

  • including a 24/7 neighborhood hotline to field complaints.

  • - [Brian] We've banned all parties globally on Airbnb.

  • We have a risky reservation queue

  • where we looking at any suspicious activity,

  • and we have a pretty hands-on team that's using

  • some pretty advanced like machine learning technology

  • to essentially identify anything we think is suspicious.

  • If it is, we'll continue to seek more information.

  • - [Presenter] The company says

  • the number of party complaints

  • have dropped 44% in the last two years.

  • Airbnb has also been trying to reduce that rate further

  • by doing things like blocking one or two nights stays

  • on new year's Eve and Halloween

  • for guests without a history of positive reviews,

  • but incidents keep happening.

  • - [Rana] Earlier this year,

  • we had a shooting in Pittsburgh,

  • and again, you know, people were injured.

  • - [Presenter] City officials have also blamed Airbnb

  • for ruining the long term rental market

  • in some small communities

  • - What's happened is a lot of people

  • are just snapping up properties and renting them.

  • And as a result,

  • locals don't have enough properties to rent long term.

  • Airbnb doesn't think that it's actually

  • affected the long term rental market,

  • but you know if you ask city officials,

  • they have a different story.

  • - [Presenter] For example, in 2020,

  • the Mayor of Sedona, Arizona, a tourist hotspot,

  • said that the demand for Airbnb rentals

  • worsened the shortage of affordable housing

  • and demolished the long term rental market.

  • - If we are, you know, part of the problem,

  • we are gonna work with cities.

  • That's why we've done numerous agreements with cities

  • to create restrictions.

  • We actually do want Airbnb

  • to get more and more into long term housing.

  • We want people to really feel invested in the community.

  • - [Rana] One of the things that Airbnb is doing now

  • is it's trying to direct people

  • to areas where it has supply,

  • and that sort of also takes the load off of certain places

  • that everyone might go to

  • and that might get sort of overburdened

  • - [Presenter] In April,

  • Airbnb announced

  • that its employees can work from almost anywhere

  • without a pay cut.

  • - So if more businesses do follow Airbnb's lead,

  • Airbnb stands to gain in its home rental business

  • because that would mean, more digital nomads,

  • more people traveling, and likely booking more Airbnbs.

  • - [Presenter] But some travelers are concerned

  • about rising nightly rates,

  • and some analysts believe that hotel chains and competitors

  • like Expedia Group,

  • stand to gain as business travel picks up this year.

  • So the question is, can Airbnb keep up the momentum?

  • - We're an incredibly lean company.

  • We've already been preparing for a storm

  • that we thought was inevitable for years to come.

  • - [Presenter] Airbnb dramatically cut costs

  • during the pandemic,

  • and analysts have credited the company