Tech

Airbnb hires Disney veteran to lead Experiences division ahead of expected public listing this year

Key Points
  • Airbnb announced Wednesday that it has hired 15-year Disney veteran Catherine Powell to lead Airbnb's Experiences division, which offers tours and other activities for guests.
  • Public investors will likely look at the Experiences division to see if Airbnb has successfully expanded into new services and offerings.
  • It remains unclear if Experiences is a meaningful source of revenue for the company.
Euro Disney S.A.S President Catherine Powell attends the presentation of a study on the economic and social contribution of Disneyland Paris in Paris on February 24, 2017, as a part of the 25th anniversary of Disneyland Paris' events.
Eric Piermont | AFP | Getty Images

Airbnb is making some big hires ahead of its expected public debut later this year.

The home-sharing company announced Wednesday that it has hired 15-year Disney veteran Catherine Powell to lead its Experiences division, which offers tours and other activities for guests such as cooking classes. Powell most recently ran the U.S. and Paris theme parks for Disney.

The Experiences division could play an important role as Airbnb eyes an expected public listing later this year. Investors will look to see if Airbnb has successfully expanded into new services and offerings.

Airbnb launched Experiences in 2016 to diversify beyond its core offering of accommodations and capture more of the travel economy.

It remains unclear if Experiences is a meaningful source of revenue for the company, which is privately valued at more than $30 billion. Experiences brought in $15 million through the first three quarters of 2018, The Information reported, the most recent figures available. Airbnb said it brought in more than $1 billion in total revenue for the second quarter of 2019.

Airbnb said Wednesday it has expanded the Experiences division to offer more than 40,000 experiences in more than 1,000 cities. The company pushed into new categories of Experiences last year, such as cooking and animal experiences.

"Catherine is the perfect person to lead this business," Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky said in a statement. "Some people can come up with creative ideas. Others know how to run big teams and scale big businesses. Catherine can do both."

Joe Zadeh, who was among the first 10 Airbnb employees, spearheaded the launch of the Experiences initiative in 2016 and is still listed on the company's site as vice president of Experiences. The company announced earlier this month that Zadeh will transition out of the Experiences division to lead a team meant to serve stakeholder interests.

"Airbnb is a truly inspiring company with a mission that sits at the heart of the Experiences Economy," Powell said. "I've seen firsthand how Experience Hosts take Guests on amazing adventures and I know Airbnb has a unique opportunity to deliver experiences that are distinct, authentic, immersive, and memorable. The potential for this business is virtually unlimited."

The news comes after Airbnb announced earlier this month the hiring of Jesse Stein, a former executive of the real estate private equity firm KHP Capital, as global head of real estate. Stein will be tasked with establishing new real estate development projects as Airbnb looks to break into traditional real estate investing to supplement the supply of listings on its site.

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