Airbnb slashes 25% of staff as pandemic continues to batter global travel industry

Airbnb recently announced new cleaning "protocols" to reassure travellers. PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP, REUTERS) - Home-sharing platform Airbnb said on Tuesday (May 5) it will slash one-fourth of its workforce - some 1,900 people - as the coronavirus pandemic crushes the travel industry.

The cuts are needed for the San Francisco-based company to survive until people start traveling anew, Airbnb co-founder and chief executive Brian Chesky said in a blog post.

"We are collectively living through the most harrowing crisis of our lifetime, and as it began to unfold, global travel came to a standstill," Chesky said.

Airbnb explained that it will try to soften the blow with benefits including providing 12 months of health insurance to laid-off workers.

The job cuts will be spread about the company's global operations, with a goal of tuning a more focused business strategy that returns to Airbnb "roots" of being a platform for sharing homes and local experiences, according to Mr Chesky.

"Teams across all of Airbnb will be impacted," Mr Chesky said.

"Many teams will be reduced in size based on how well they map to where Airbnb is headed."

Airbnb added that it will cut investments in transportation, hotels or other endeavors that do not directly support hosts whose homes are listed on the platform.

Airbnb in April announced it was taking a billion dollars in new investment to endure and, it hopes, thrive in a travel world transformed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The fresh resources will enable the company to invest in its community of "hosts" as well as local experiences provided along with stays in homes, Mr Chesky said at the time.

Airbnb planned to focus particularly on long-term stays, from students needing housing to remote workers, building on a rising demand the platform has seen as people self-isolate during the pandemic.

The company recently announced new cleaning "protocols" to reassure travelers. Airbnb is also helping hosts with financial losses after guests cancelled travel plans.

In late March, the company suspended its marketing activities to save US$800 million in 2020 and informed workers that its founders will take no salary for the next six months while top executives would take a 50 per cent cut.

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