Arguing that international travel will never be exactly like it once was before the COVID-19 crisis was declared a global pandemic earlier this year, Airbnb CEO and founder Brian Chesky hypothesized that domestic tourism will become more popular as a result.
"I will go on the record to say that travel will never, ever go back to the way it was pre-COVID; it just won't," Chesky said in a Sunday interview with Axios. "There are sometimes months when decades of transformation happen."
What's more, he revealed that Airbnb data indicates customers are more inclined to stick closer to home and take fewer risks when planning future trips during this time, amid a future of uncertainty.
"People are not getting on airplanes, they're not crossing borders, they're not meaningfully traveling to cities, they're not traveling for business," the executive explained. "They're getting in cars. They're traveling to communities that are 200 miles away or less. These are usually very small communities. They're staying in homes and they're staying longer."
Looking ahead, Chesky mused that there will be a "fairly permanent shift" in where travelers go, and "mass tourism" to bucket-list destinations might be over for good.
"You know, everyone goes to Rome, Paris, London, they stay in the hotel district, they get on the double-decker bus," he told Axios. "They wait in line to get a selfie in front of a landmark."
"I think that's going to get smaller as a percentage of travel in the future, and I think it's going to get somewhat displaced, or at least balanced, by people visiting smaller communities.”
As travel and tourism become more localized, the CEO of the lodging site suggested that one particular American treasure could become all the rage – national parks.
Chesky pointed out that many people haven't visited the country's national parks and that doing so is "pretty cheap," with no airplane ticket required to drivable destinations.
The industry insider might be on to something, as a recent report from AAA predicts that the COVID-19 outbreak will cause the first decline in summer travel for Americans since 2009.