Since its launch in 2008, Airbnb has fundamentally changed the travel industry, in ways both good and bad. The company has opened doors, literally and metaphorically, for travelers and adventure seekers. It’s also fueled the gig economy and worsened housing crises in cities like New York by making short-term rentals more profitable than long-term leases. 

The pandemic presented a seemingly inescapable problem for Airbnb, as people were urged not to travel. But last week, the home-sharing platform pioneer flipped the narrative. The company’s shares soared on its first day of trading, opening at $146 each, 115% higher than its initial public offering price of $68. 

Airbnb is valued at $101.6 billion and its offering raised $3.5 billion, making it the biggest IPO of 2020. We’re now on the verge of a vaccine, and investors are betting on a 2021 travel rebound. 

It’s no surprise that people traveled less than usual this year. But there were enough bookings to keep Airbnb afloat, and they’re only growing.

Where travelers went, and where they’re headed

According to Airbtics, a data research firm that specializes in home-sharing platforms, people were staying in Airbnbs throughout the pandemic, despite a mid-year slowdown. 

In March, as coronavirus made its way to US soil, bookings in Snowmass, Colorado were up by 109% YoY. The start of the pandemic coincided with Spring Break, as bookings in Holualoa, Hawaii and Siesta Key Florida jumped 36% and 27% YoY, respectively. Athens, Georgia’s bookings were up by 42% YoY that month. 

Bookings were down across the board going into April and May, but they decreased the least in the mountains. Big Sky, Montana saw bookings decline by 17% YoY in April. Bookings in Vail, Colorado were down by 20% in May.

The pandemic didn’t stop people from traveling to beaches, lakes, and deserts over the summer. Bookings in Joshua Tree climbed 49% YoY in June and surged up to 104% by August. Lake Placid, New York bookings were up by 152% in July. 

August’s big Airbnb locations were Big Sky, Montana; Big Bear, California; and Siesta Key, Florida. Big Sky bookings were up 97% YoY and Siesta Key stays were up 80%. But the most popular Airbnb destination of summer 2020 was Big Bear, California. Big Bear’s bookings shot up 112% YoY in June and increased to 207% in August. It was still a hot spot by September, with bookings up 126% YoY.

Cases in the US were relatively low in September. Americans thought we might be out of the woods and headed to the beach. Daytona Beach, Florida bookings surged by 195% YoY that month. Palm Springs, California’s bookings were up 86%. Meanwhile, in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountain resort area, Wintergreen saw bookings skyrocket 306% YoY. The mountainous Telluride, Colorado saw some autumn attention, as well. Bookings were up 80% in August and soared to 246% YoY by November, even with the virus’ second wave. 

Airbnb weathered the pandemic with some thunder along the way — an emergency round and mass job cuts — but the company will likely come out of it stronger than before, as people plan their much-needed post-COVID getaways.

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