Coronavirus Marketing Airbnb

Airbnb culls growth marketing and experience design in coronavirus layoffs


By Katie Deighton, Senior Reporter

May 12, 2020 | 4 min read

Airbnb’s round of redundancies includes in-house marketers from its luxury and hotels divisions – two areas chief executive Brian Chesky earmarked for disinvestment. But those who work in growth marketing, experience design and creative have also been hit by layoffs.

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Nearly 1,900 Airbnb employees lost their jobs last week

The company was forced to cut approximately 25% of its workforce last week after coronavirus prevention measures bottomed out the travel industry. Chesky’s approach to staff reductions was praised for the extra protections it gave to former employers.

Among those protections was Airbnb’s Talent Directory, a public recruitment list designed to help the 1,900 laid-off employees find new work. Now up and running, the directory paints a picture of which marketing functions have been stripped back to save on costs.

A total of 64 internal marketers were made redundant by the company, alongside 22 in-house creatives. Nearly 80 members of the design team were let go – the majority of whom contributed to the company’s experience design business across digital and physical projects. Five public relations executives also lost their jobs.

Cuts were made across the globe, from headquarters in San Francisco to offices in the likes of Montreal, Beijing and Singapore.

Many of the marketing layoffs included those who had worked to build out Airbnb Luxe, the company’s luxury offering that was spun off from its acquisition of Luxury Retreats and featured exclusive villas, penthouses and private islands, as well as perks such as drivers, childcare and a concierge.

Luxe was one of the lines of business Chesky said he was “pausing”, alongside its work in transportation, hotels and Airbnb Studios, which hoped to produce original films and shows on the subject of travel. Redundancies from the hotels division affected a number of designers and creatives who moved over to Airbnb after its 2019 acquisition of HotelTonight.

On top of the execs who worked in the designated “paused” departments, Airbnb has made cuts across brand marketing and media activation. Growth marketing has taken a substantial hit with 18 managers in the area made redundant. Many of these execs had worked on Airbnb’s now-defunct sponsorship of the 2020 Olympic Games.

Chesky said he took a process-driven approach to the staff cuts.

“Our process started with creating a more focused business strategy built on a sustainable cost model,” he said. “We assessed how each team mapped to our new strategy, and we determined the size and shape of each team going forward.

“We then did a comprehensive review of every team member and made decisions based on critical skills, and how well those skills matched our future business needs. The result is that we will have to part with teammates that we love and value. We have great people leaving Airbnb, and other companies will be lucky to have them.”

Alongside the introduction of the public talent directory, Airbnb has partially turned its recruitment team into the Alumni Placement Team in order to help those laid off find work. It is also offering four months of career services through RiseSmart, which specializes in career transition and job placement services.

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