Airbnb pulled back from being one of the first with a ChatGPT plugin, the company has shared.
Discussing the company’s first quarter results with analysts, CEO Brian Chesky said he felt the interface wasn't a good fit for travel.
“The reason why is I decided that the interface of pure tech space with widgets at the bottom was probably not the right interface for travel," he said. "Ultimately, I think the right interface for travel is multimodal. It's rich media, it's photo, it's video, it's much more immersive.
“So we're going to be building GPT-4 into our interface, and I think that's the real opportunity for us. So you should see some big changes next year with AI built into our app. The final thing I'll say is ... our employees could easily be, especially developers, 30% more productive in the short to medium term, and this will allow significantly greater throughput through tools like GitHub Copilot.”
He also discussed initiatives around artificial intelligence for Airbnb and described it as “certainly the biggest revolution in travel - in tech since I came to Silicon Valley,” adding that it’s as big a platform shift as the internet.
Chesky went on to describe the large language models of GPT, Google, Microsoft Research and Anthropic as major infrastructure investments “like building a highway.”
“It's a major infrastructure project, and we're not going to do that. We're not an infrastructure company. But we're going to build the cars on the highway.
“In other words, we're going to design the interface in the tuning of the model on top of AI, on top of the base model. So on top of the base models is the tuning of the model, and the tuning of the models is going to be based on the customer data you have.”
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He said ChatGPT currently serves up the same answers regardless of who is asking, but that in travel a lot of questions “aren’t really search, they’re matching questions. And it's the questions that the answer depends on, who you are and what your preferences are.”
“So for example, I think that, going forward, Airbnb is going to be pretty different. Instead of asking you questions like where are you going and when are you going, I want us to build a robust profile about you, learn more about you and ask you two bigger and more fundamental questions: Who are you, and what do you want. And ultimately, what I think Airbnb is building is not just a service or a product. But what we are, in the larger sense, is a global travel community, and the role of Airbnb and that travel community is to be the ultimate host.”
The end result will be the “ultimate AI concierge,” according to Chesky.
He also said AI would play a role in improving customer service and making it more consistent.
Strong start to 2023
Chesky spoke as the company announced a “record high” in nights and experiences in the first quarter of 2023.
The accommodation platform reported more than 120 million nights and experiences booked, representing a 19% increase year over year.
Gross booking value for the company increased 19% to $20.4 billion while revenue for the quarter increased 20% to $1.8 billion.
Net income was $117 million versus a $19 million loss in Q1 2022, and adjusted EBITDA came in a $262 million, up from $229 million in Q1 of 2022.
Airbnb also increased its supply by 18% year over year and up slightly from a 16% increase in Q4 of 2022.
Chesky also said the company is continuing to focus on three priorities, including making hosting on the platform as mainstream as travel is and improving the core service with a raft of recent developments unveiled last week.
Airbnb Rooms, renting private rooms, was one of the developments announced, and during the analyst call Chesky shared that a “major brand campaign” is coming this summer to support the initiative.
“If we are successful, I think this is going to bring in a whole new cohort of younger travelers. People that maybe weren't inclined to travel may now be able to travel and hopefully should lift the overall marketplace for Airbnb.”
A third priority is to expand beyond the core, he said, and the company is “building the foundation” now for new developments in 2024.
Phocuswright Europe 2023
Business is booming despite regulatory roadblocks and tough competition. Find out what's new, what's in and what's out as Airbnb strives to meet unceasing demand while navigating global uncertainties.