Airbnb is an American company best known for its vacation rental online marketplace. It allows people to find and book unique accommodation places worldwide while providing a platform for hosts to share their properties with travelers. Since its inception in 2008, Airbnb has rapidly grown to become one of the world’s most popular vacation rental platforms.
It has its headquarters in San Francisco, California, and operates in more than 220 countries. As of December 31, 2021, the company had over six million active listings in 100,000 cities and had processed over one billion guest arrivals. Despite the profound acclamation, the company isn’t free of criticism and controversies.
As a global platform, it faces regulatory hurdles in several countries with accusations of gentrification, negative impact on housing affordability, and exploitation of hosts. Moreover, Airbnb has never made a profit since its founding. For instance, its net loss for 2021 was $352.03 million, 2020 was $4.585 billion, and 2019 was $674 million.
It’s unclear when Airbnb will become profitable because, like many other top stocks, it invests heavily in growth. Nevertheless, the company has a solid business model, an impressive growth rate, and a large addressable market. To understand Airbnb better, let’s take a closer look at its business model and operations using the SWOT framework.
Bottom Line Up Front
Airbnb is a top vacation rental platform with a solid business model. Some of its key strengths include a large addressable market, impressive growth rate, and global brand recognition. However, the company is plagued by regulatory hurdles and negative criticism and has yet to achieve profitability. For investors, consider Airbnb a high-risk, high-reward stock.
Airbnb Business Model
Airbnb is based on the sharing economy business model, which refers to the collaborative consumption of goods and services. It’s an economic model in which individuals can borrow or rent assets from each other through a peer-to-peer platform. The sharing economy has seen tremendous growth in recent years, with the global market projected to reach $335 billion by 2025.
Competing in a market with such growth projections is an opportunity for Airbnb. Given its early mover advantage, extensive brand recognition, and massive user base, Airbnb is in a solid position to capitalize on the growth of the sharing economy.
As a community-based platform, Airbnb offers an online marketplace connecting hosts with travelers. It allows people to list their properties on the platform and set their rental prices. Essentially, it’s a transactional facilitator between two groups of people with different needs.
For hosts, Airbnb provides an opportunity to rent out extra space and earn some additional income. For travelers, it’s a way to find unique accommodations at more affordable prices than traditional hotels. Most importantly, both groups must create profiles and reviews on the platform to build trust and establish credibility.
The company makes money by charging a service fee to both hosts and guests. For hosts, the company charges a 3% fee on every booking. The fee may be higher, especially for Airbnb Plus listings, a premium vacation rental tier that offers verified comfort, quality, and design.
Guests are the primary source of revenue for Airbnb, with the company charging a service fee of up to 14.2% on every booking. More expensive listings have a lower service fee, while cheaper listings have a higher service fee.
Airbnb Financial Overview
Airbnb is a public company trading on the NASDAQ under the ticker ABNB. It filed for an IPO in 2020 and raised $3.5 billion in its debut. Its valuation at the time of IPO was $47 billion, making it one of the most valuable tech IPOs in history.
Since going public, Airbnb’s stock price has been on a tear, more than tripling from its IPO price of $68 to an all-time high of $219.94 on February 11, 2021. On July 3, 2022, its stock price was $91.41, with a market capitalization of $59.02 billion. While the dip from its all-time high can be attributed to the pandemic, Airbnb’s stock price has recovered significantly and continues to trade above its IPO price.
So if you’re thinking of investing in Airbnb, it’s essential to understand the company’s financials. Airbnb has been growing at an impressive rate for the past few years but has yet to become profitable.
Airbnb’s revenue and gross booking value (GBV) are its two main performance metrics. Revenue is the total amount of money the company generates, while GBV is the total value of all bookings made on the platform. In 2019, Airbnb’s revenue was $4.81 billion, while its GBV was $37.96 billion. In 2020, its revenue declined to $3.38 billion due to the pandemic, while its GBV fell to $23.9 billion.
2021 was a breakout year for Airbnb, with the company’s revenue and GBV almost doubling from the previous year. It closed the year with $5.99 billion in revenue and $46.88 billion in GBV. Despite the impressive growth, Airbnb still makes losses. However, it’s important to note that the company has been deliberately investing in growth and isn’t focused on profitability.
Airbnb SWOT Analysis
The following SWOT analysis highlights the key strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that Airbnb faces as a business. If you’re considering investing in Airbnb, it’s essential to understand the company’s strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities and threats it faces.
- First mover advantage
Airbnb was founded in 2008 and is the pioneer of the sharing economy. It has a first-mover advantage in the space and has established itself as the go-to platform for vacation rental bookings. As a result, it has massive global brand awareness and enjoys strong mindshare.
- Strong network effects
Airbnb has strong network effects, which is a key competitive advantage. The company’s platform is two-sided, with hosts and guests using the same platform to find each other. As more people use Airbnb, it becomes more valuable to both hosts and guests. As a result, Airbnb has become the largest vacation rental platform in the world, with over six million listings in 220 countries and regions.
- Innovative business model
Airbnb’s business model disrupted the traditional hotel industry. By allowing people to rent out their homes or rooms, Airbnb created a new category of accommodations. Other smaller players have since copied Airbnb’s business model, but the company remains the clear leader in the space.
- Superior customer experience
Airbnb offers a superior customer experience to both hosts and guests. The company invests heavily in customer support and has a team of customer service reps available 24/7 to help with any issues. As a result, Airbnb consistently ranks as one of the most trusted brands in the sharing economy.
- Strong financials
Despite being unprofitable, Airbnb’s financials are strong. Since its founding, the company has raised over $6.4 billion in funding from venture capitalists and private equity firms. It also has a healthy balance sheet, with $9.337 billion cash in hand as of the first quarter ending March 31, 2022.
- Strong brand
Airbnb has built a strong brand over the years and is one of the most recognizable companies in the sharing economy. The company has a cult-like following, with many passionate about its mission to “create a world where anyone can belong anywhere.” In 2021, the company’s value was $113 billion, up from $75 billion the previous year.
- Experienced management team
Airbnb is led by co-founders and co-CEOs Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, both experienced entrepreneurs. The company also has a strong management team, with seasoned executives in charge of finance, engineering, design, and marketing.
- Global expansion
Airbnb is expanding rapidly into new markets and categories. In 2019, the company acquired Hotel Tonight, a last-minute hotel booking app, to expand its offerings. It also launched Airbnb Luxe, a high-end rental platform, and Airbnb Adventures, a platform for group travel experiences.
- Direct bookings
Airbnb invests heavily in direct bookings, a critical competitive advantage. By allowing hosts to list their properties on the Airbnb platform, the company can avoid the high fees charged by online travel agencies. As a result, Airbnb’s margins are much higher than its competitors.
- Ancillary revenue streams
Airbnb has several ancillary revenue streams, which help diversify its business and reduce its dependence on vacation rental bookings. In 2019, the company launched Airbnb Experiences, a platform for people to book local experiences, and Airbnb for Work, a platform for business travelers.
Airbnb is not yet profitable, which is a crucial weakness. If the company cannot generate enough revenue to cover its costs, it’ll eventually go bankrupt. As a result, Airbnb’s shareholders have been patient with its profitability, but this patience may not last forever. In 2020, the company lost $4.585 billion, its highest loss ever.
- Developing regulations
As Airbnb grows, it faces increasing regulation from local, state, and federal governments. These regulations – which can vary widely by jurisdiction – can limit Airbnb’s growth and profitability. In some markets, such as New York City, Airbnb has been forced to change its business model to comply with regulations.
- Bait and switch scams
There have been several reports of “bait and switch” scams in which people list fake properties on Airbnb. When guests try to book these properties, they’re redirected to a different site, asking them to pay an inflated price. These scams can damage Airbnb’s reputation and make it difficult for the company to attract new users.
- Racial discrimination
Airbnb has been accused of racial discrimination, with some studies finding that people with “black-sounding” names are less likely to have their rental requests accepted. The company has taken steps to address this issue but remains a reputational risk.
- Negative guest experiences
While most guests have positive experiences on Airbnb, there have been several reports of negative experiences, such as guests being injured or robbed. Others include moldy or rodent-infested properties, privacy violations, and noise complaints. These negative experiences can damage Airbnb’s reputation and make it difficult for the company to attract new users.
- Hosts canceling reservations
Last-minute cancellations by Airbnb hosts are a major inconvenience for guests. In some cases, guests have arrived at their destination only to find that their host has canceled their reservation. In other cases, guests have been stranded without a place to stay. This problem is especially prevalent in popular tourist destinations during peak travel periods.
- User data transparency and sharing
The Chinese government has demanded that Airbnb share user data with it, raising concerns about its commitment to user privacy. Additionally, Airbnb has been accused of sharing user data with third-party marketing partners without users’ consent. If Airbnb cannot protect user data, it could face harsh penalties from regulators.
- Expansion into new markets
Airbnb has only scratched the surface of the global vacation rental market. Airbnb has many potential new markets to enter, such as Europe, Asia, and South America. Additionally, there’s a largely untapped market for business travelers. Airbnb could also expand its business model to include other properties, such as apartments and condos.
- Increase in leisure travel
The global pandemic led to a sharp decrease in travel, but as the world begins to reopen, there’s potential for a rebound in leisure travel. If people are more comfortable traveling for leisure, it could boost Airbnb’s business. This trend could be amplified by a shift in travel patterns, with people choosing to travel to more remote and less crowded destinations.
- Increased focus on luxury rentals
While Airbnb has traditionally been focused on budget-friendly rentals, there’s an opportunity for the company to tap into the luxury market. As the sharing economy matures, there’s a growing demand for luxury experiences. If Airbnb can provide high-end rentals that meet this demand, it could generate significant revenue growth.
- Strategic partnerships and acquisitions
The vacation rental market is consolidating, with several prominent players such as Expedia and booking.com acquiring smaller companies. Airbnb could use this trend to its advantage by partnering with or acquiring these larger companies. Such a move would give Airbnb a significant competitive edge in the market.
- Competition from other vacation rental platforms
Airbnb faces increased competition from other vacation rental platforms, such as HomeAway and VRBO. These companies are well-established in the market and have strong brand recognition. They also offer a similar product to Airbnb, making it difficult for Airbnb to differentiate itself.
- Competition from traditional hotels
Traditional hotels are also a major competitor for Airbnb. Hotels have a significant advantage in terms of brand recognition and marketing budgets. They also offer many amenities that Airbnb cannot match, such as on-site restaurants and concierge services.
- Vulnerability to lawsuits
Governments, guests, hosts, and residents have filed lawsuits against Airbnb. These lawsuits allege various issues, including property damage, noise complaints, and privacy violations. If Airbnb is unsuccessful in defending these lawsuits, it could be forced to change its business model, negatively impacting its bottom line.
- Economic downturns
Airbnb is susceptible to economic downturns, as people are typically less likely to travel when the economy is weak. An excellent example is the effects of the global pandemic, which led to a significant decline in travel and a corresponding decrease in Airbnb’s business.
- Uncertain future legal and regulatory environment
The legal and regulatory environment for the sharing economy is still evolving. This uncertainty makes it difficult for companies like Airbnb to plan for the future. Additionally, governments could impose stricter regulations on the sharing economy, limiting Airbnb’s growth potential.
Airbnb competes in a diversified market with players from various segments. Below are some of Airbnb’s main competitors:
- HomeAway: A vacation rental marketplace with more than 2 million unique places to stay in 190 countries.
- Vrbo: Vrbo is a vacation rental platform part of the Expedia Group. With over 2 million rentals worldwide, Vrbo connects homeowners with families and friends looking for the perfect place to stay for their next trip.
- TripAdvisor: TripAdvisor is a travel planning and booking website with over 630 million reviews and opinions of 7.6 million accommodations, restaurants, experiences, airlines, and cruises.
- Agoda: Agoda is an online travel booking platform for accommodation, flights, and activities.
- Booking.com: Booking.com is a digital travel platform allowing travelers to search and book hotels, apartments, hostels, and more. It also offers rental cars and activities.
Other Airbnb competitors include traditional hotels such as Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt. The diversified nature of Airbnb’s competitors allows the company to compete in multiple markets and tap into different customer segments. Check out our guide on the top Airbnb competitors analysis.
Airbnb SWOT Analysis (FAQs)
Question: What is the strategy of Airbnb?
Answer: Airbnb’s strategy is to be the leading global platform for connecting people to unique travel experiences. The company focuses on delivering a great customer experience by offering a wide selection of unique accommodations and experiences in over 190 countries.
Question: What is Airbnb’s competitive advantage?
Answer: Airbnb’s competitive advantage is its platform. The company has built a robust two-sided marketplace that connects people who need accommodations with people who need to rent out extra space. Airbnb has also created a brand synonymous with trust, quality, and value.
Question: How can Airbnb improve?
Answer: Airbnb can improve its competitive position by investing in its platform and expanding its offerings to include more high-end accommodations and experiences. The company can also continue to build its brand by delivering a great customer experience.
Airbnb is a strong company with a robust platform, a well-known brand, and a diversified customer base. However, the company faces significant challenges, including intense competition, lawsuits, and an uncertain legal and regulatory environment. Moreover, its unprofitability presents a significant risk to its long-term growth.
Despite these challenges, Airbnb remains a strong player in the online travel booking market with significant potential for future growth. It can tap into new markets, such as the corporate travel market, and continue to invest in its platform to maintain its competitive advantage.