Airbnb hires former Disney executive to head its “Experiences” Division ahead of IPO

Airbnb hires former Disney executive to head its “Experiences” Division ahead of IPO

  • Airbnb has appointed a new head of “Experiences” ahead of its Initial Public Offering later this year.
  • Catherine Powell, who will be in charge of Airbnb’s “Experiences” division, brings with her more than a decade of experience in the media space having worked at Disney for 15 years.
  • The company is targeting to broaden its services to appeal to investors before its market debut.

Online marketplace for arranging or offering lodging, primarily homestays, or tourism experiences Airbnb has appointed a new head of “Experiences” ahead of its Initial Public Offering later this year. The new team member, Catherine Powell, brings with her more than a decade of experience in the media space having worked at Disney for 15 years.

Most recently, she served in the position of president of Disney Parks, a unit of the American diversified multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate The Walt Disney Company.

In the role, Powell was in charge of Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Disneyland Paris.

The tech company released a statement on Wednesday saying the executive had assumed her role on the same day as the announcement.

Airbnb has been looking to grow its offerings beyond hotel-booking, making it necessary to boost the Experiences division. Sources indicate that the company is targeting to broaden its services to appeal to investors before its market debut. In its diversification plan, Airbnb highlights its intention to include transportation and excursions to its platform.

The tech unicorn is keen on capitalising on the growing tours and activities space, much of which remains offline and primarily controlled by small scale players. Research by Phocuswright projects revenue of about $183 billion will be generated by companies in the tours and activity sector.

Airbnb’s Experiences unit was established in 2016 and is said to be operational in more than 1,000 cities offering more than 40,000 activities. But questions have emerged over the viability of the division, having brought in only $15 million in revenue by the third quarter of 2019. Hotel analysts place Airbnb’s last year’s earnings at between $4 and $5 billion. If the two are contrasted, it means the Experiences unit is netting the company between 0.3% and 0.4% of its total revenue.

Last year a private valuation of the company set it at $35 billion.

It is believed that the low returns have a hand in the exit of the former chief of Experiences Joe Zadeh from the division, although he still serves in the group as a “chief stakeholder officer.” The company was quick to clear the air saying the move was not a demotion but a lateral one.

During the Wednesday announcement of Powell’s hiring, Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky thanked Zadeh for his leadership since the launch of the Experiences unit.

By Damian Wood
As an experienced trader, I work for myself managing my own small portfolio and also contributing on several investment news sites. I mix my passion for the industry and journalism to bring my readers informative and trustworthy articles.

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