Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. Photo: Bloomberg
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Airbnb’s New Strategy: Living Without Google

Photo: Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. Photo: Bloomberg

Employees who worked on Airbnb’s marketing team in recent years have sometimes pondered a tantalizing question: What would happen to the company’s growth if it stopped spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on ads that appear high up in Google search results? 

The pandemic may have given Airbnb the opportunity to test that path. As the coronavirus brought travel to a near standstill in March, the company abruptly halted online advertising to cut costs. The effects so far have been mixed. Even with scant marketing spending, Airbnb has started to see a rebound in bookings and website traffic. But Airbnb also has recovered more slowly than smaller competitors, including Expedia-owned Vrbo, which has been spending more aggressively on ads in recent months.

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