Airbnb Taps Former Disney President To Head Up Airbnb Experiences

Airbnb has hired Catherine Powell, a 15-year Disney veteran, to head up its Experiences division, the firm announced this week.

She was hired ahead of the company’s expected initial public offering (IPO) coming up soon this year. The Experiences division handles things like tours and other activities, such as cooking classes for guests.

The Experiences division was launched in 2016 as a way to expand into new services encompassing more of the travel industry. However, it remains to be seen whether its services will become an impactful source of revenue for Airbnb. The division did bring in $15 million during the first three quarters of 2018, though, according to stats from The Information — the most recent figures available.

According to Airbnb, the Experiences division was expanded recently to include more than 40,000 experiences and 1,000 cities. Some of the new experiences added over the last few months include cooking and animal experiences.

Powell’s recent experience includes running both the U.S. and Paris theme parks for Disney. Airbnb Co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky said Powell’s hiring would be perfect for the position’s needs, and that she could handle both sides of the job — from coming up with creative ideas to knowing how to run a business.

She said Airbnb was inspiring to her, and that she had the best interests of the experience economy at heart. Words she used to describe Airbnb included “distinct, authentic, immersive and memorable.” She added that the potential in the business was “virtually unlimited.”

Joe Zadeh, former vice president of Experiences and one of the earliest employees at Airbnb, is leaving the job to enter a new position, which will focus on serving stakeholder interests.

Airbnb is privately valued at more than $30 billion, with reported earnings of more than $1 billion from the second quarter of 2019. A landmark case in Europe would classify Airbnb as a digital platform, and the company has signaled its support of the EU establishing a digital regulator.


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