Airbnb says demand is soaring even amid economic uncertainty

CNN Business
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Demand for Airbnb bookings continues to soar even as high gas prices and inflation weigh on consumers and the economy.

Airbnb said Tuesday that it had 103.7 million bookings on its platform during the three months ended in June, a new quarterly high for the company and a 24% increase from the same period in 2019, before its business was devastated by the pandemic.

With that jump in bookings, Airbnb posted revenue of $2.1 billion, up 58% compared to the year prior. The company also reported a net income of $379 million, marking its most profitable June quarter ever.

Airbnb also benefited from higher average daily rates. At $164, the average daily rate was down slightly compared to the first three months of this year but up 40% compared to the same period in 2019. Notably, Airbnb said bookings in high-density urban areas, which typically garner higher rates, increased compared to earlier this year and exceeded pre-pandemic levels.

Shares of Airbnb were down 4% in after hours trading Tuesday following the results.

The results highlight both the revival of the travel sector and the durability of Airbnb’s business more than two years into the pandemic. In the first months after Covid-19 hit, Airbnb reduced its spending and cut a quarter of its global workforce to weather what its CEO then said was a “standstill” in global travel.

“We’ve kept this discipline ever since, allowing our hiring and investment plans to remain unchanged since the beginning of the year,” the company said in a shareholder letter. A growing number of tech companies are now announcing hiring freezes and layoffs amid a wave of economic uncertainty this year, but Airbnb says it is “well positioned for whatever lies ahead.”

Signaling its confidence, Airbnb announced to shareholders a $2 billion share repurchase program, a first for the company. Airbnb says this move will allow it to offset dilution from employee stock programs.

The company said it expects the current quarter to be an “inflection point” in its pandemic recovery, and noted that it anticipates reporting its highest quarterly revenue ever for the three months ending in September. Another positive sign for the company: July 4th was its highest single day of revenue ever, it said.

Private astronaut missions to the ISS will soon require an experienced astronaut chaperone

CNN
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Private astronaut missions to the International Space Station will have to be chaperoned by a former NASA astronaut, per new proposed requirements from the US space agency.

NASA posted a public notice online on Tuesday that laid out a handful of updated requirements for future private astronaut missions, which the agency said are based on lessons learned upon completion of the first private astronaut mission to the ISS that took place last April. The first all-private mission to the orbiting laboratory was a multi-million dollar journey organized by Texas-based startup Axiom Space and launched via a SpaceX rocket, with a crew comprised of a former NASA astronaut and current Axiom Space employee, Michael López-Alegría, and three ultra-wealthy paying crewmembers.

During the mission, dubbed AX-1, the four-member crew spent nearly two weeks off of Earth’s surface, at least in part conducting experiments and other scientific work. Other space tourism companies like Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic only offer customers short trips that allow for a few minutes of microgravity.

Among the most notable new policies for these pricey, private missions to the ISS is that “upcoming private astronaut missions include a former flown NASA (U.S.) government astronaut as the mission commander,” according to the NASA update.

The requirement is still being finalized, NASA added, but the agency noted that having a former, legitimate astronaut “provides experienced guidance for the private astronauts during pre-flight preparation through mission execution.” The former NASA astronaut also “provides a link” between residents on the ISS and the private astronauts, which the agency said “reduces risk” to ISS operations and safety.

Late last year, SpaceX launched the Inspiration4 mission, which was bankrolled by billionaire Jared Isaacman and had a four-person crew composed entirely of people without any prior spaceflight experience. This private mission, however, simply took a three-day spin around Earth in a SpaceX dragon capsule and did not dock at the ISS.

Axiom has already stated that its second private astronaut mission to the ISS, dubbed AX-2 and expected to launch next year, will have former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson as a mission commander.

During remarks at the annual International Space Station Research and Development Conference last week, López-Alegría spoke about how he became mission commander for the AX-1 flight, saying he initially didn’t expect to return to space after retiring from NASA.

When Axiom was looking for customers, however, “It became pretty clear, first of all, that customers really didn’t want to fly with nobody who’d done it before,” he said. It also became apparent, he said, “NASA was a lot more comfortable having someone who’d been there before.”

“We were having a meeting and we looked around the room and I was the only guy who’d been to space, so I raised my hand. I volunteered,” López-Alegría quipped at the conference.

NASA is also adding additional requirements that appear to be a result of new information learned from the AX-1 mission. Future private missions to the space station will include more time for “microgravity adaptation,” as the floating environment of the ISS can often induce space sickness, which is akin to motion sickness.

The federal space agency will also be introducing clarifications to the ISS code of conduct for commercial visitors, requirements for more detailed plans regarding crew interactions with the media, as well as a requirement for additional time to evaluate research proposals before they are brought on board.

Larry Connor, an AX-1 crewmember, told CNN in April that he and his crewmates were pressed for research time on the ISS.

“If it were not for the NASA’s Crew-3 astronauts, and their phenomenal help, we would never – underscore the word never – have been able to accomplish all of our objectives,” Connor said at the time. “We underestimated the time on some of the projects. We had one project early on that we thought was two-and-a-half hours take five hours.”

A NASA rep did not immediately respond to CNN Business’ request for further comment on the new requirements. They come, however, as the private spaceflight industry has officially lifted off after decades of people largely having to rely on government agencies and the extraordinarily selective astronaut hiring process if they wanted to go to space. Now, those who seek to leave Earth’s surface simply must have the means to pay for it.

While Axiom did not publicly disclose how much its first cohort of private astronauts shelled out for the AX-1 mission, the Washington Post reported that each crew member dished out $55 million for the flight.

THE SCOOP | Canadian Cellist Bryan Cheng Awarded Verbier Festival Academy’s Prix Yves Paternot

Bryan Cheng (Photo: Studio 1520)
Canadian cellist Bryan Cheng has been awarded the Verbier Festival Academy’s Prix Yves Paternot for 2022. The Prix is awarded to recognize the “most accomplished and promising musician” who is enrolled in the Verbier Festival Academy that year.
The Festival Academy, part of the annual classical music festival held in Verbier, Switzerland, is widely considered to be a springboard to international recognition for younger musicians. Previous alumni have included cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, pianist Kirill Gerstein, the Danish String Quartet, and Quatuor Ébène, among many other international success stories.
Bryan Cheng
At 25, Bryan Cheng has amassed an impressive record of career milestones, and maintains a busy performing schedule along with his studies.

Held his sold-out Carnegie Hall recital debut at age 14;
Debuted at the prestigious Elbphilharmonie debut in 2018 with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen;
Studied with cellist and conductor Yuli Turovsky and Hans Jørgen Jensen of Northwestern University;
Second Prize and the Audience Prize at the Geneva International Music Competition in 2021;
Sixth Laureate at the Queen Elisabeth Competition (Brussels) and First Prize winner at the UNISA International Strings Competition in Pretoria (South Africa) — both in 2022.

We’re happy to announce that Bryan Cheng, a 25-year old Canadian cellist, has won the Verbier Festival Academy’s Prix Yves Paternot, which is awarded in recognition of the most accomplished and promising musician of the annual Academy for young professional musicians. pic.twitter.com/9bgx9BLAWs
— Verbier Festival (@VerbierFestival) July 31, 2022

He has made his debut at the Musical Olympus Festival with the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra, Festival de Lanaudière with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal;
He’s performed with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande at Victoria Hall, the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Wiener Stadtorchester, and many Canadian orchestras across the country;
In 2017, he toured Canada coast-to-coast Canadian with the National Youth Orchestra as 2017, winning the Michael Measures Award that year.

In the 2022/23 season, he’ll be making his debut with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin.
On loan from the Canada Council for the Arts Musical Instrument Bank, and as First Laureate of their 2018 Competition, Cheng plays the ca. 1696 Bonjour Stradivari cello and the ca. 1830 Shaw Adam bow.
Cheng commented in a media release.
“I have learned so much and have discovered so many incredible musicians and musical performances over these past few weeks,” he said. “I look forward to returning to the Festival and to being part of this inspiring Verbier family.”
Along with his performing schedule, Cheng is currently working towards his Master’s degree at the Universität der Künste Berlin in the studio of Jens Peter Maintz.
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Anya Wassenberg is a Senior Writer and Digital Content Editor at Ludwig Van. She is an experienced freelance writer, blogger and writing instructor with OntarioLearn. Latest posts by Anya Wassenberg (see all)

Anya Wassenberg is a Senior Writer and Digital Content Editor at Ludwig Van. She is an experienced freelance writer, blogger and writing instructor with OntarioLearn. Latest posts by Anya Wassenberg (see all)