Airbnb says it is laying off 25% of its workforce as it confronts a steep decline in global travel due to the new coronavirus pandemic, the AP reports. It's a serious setback for the 12-year-old home-sharing company, which just a few months ago was valued at $31 billion and planning a hotly anticipated IPO. Airbnb lists around 7 million properties on its website. In a letter to employees, CEO Brian Chesky said the San Francisco-based company is letting 1,900 of its 7,500 workers go and cutting businesses that don’t directly support home-sharing. Those include its investments in hotels, air transportation, and movie production. “We are collectively living through the most harrowing crisis of our lifetime,” Chesky wrote. Chesky said Airbnb expects its revenue to drop by more than half this year.
The company is privately held, so it doesn’t release financial figures. But AirDNA, a company that monitors bookings and rental fees for Airbnb hosts and others, said new US bookings fell by 53% between Feb. 3 and April 13. Chesky said travel will eventually return, but will look different. Airbnb expects travelers will want options that are closer to home and more affordable, for example. The company is scaling back its investments in luxury properties as a result. “We need to make fundamental changes to Airbnb by reducing the size of our workforce around a more focused business strategy," Chesky said. Chesky said departing employees will receive at least 14 weeks of their base pay. US employees will continue to receive health care coverage for a year. (Doctors and nurses are moving into Airbnb rentals to keep their families safe.)