Airbnb has reported better-than-expected gross bookings in its first quarterly earnings report since going public, indicating a strong rebound in demand for vacation rentals in North America as Covid-19 pandemic curbs ease.  

Leisure travellers in the company's biggest market stepped out to nearby locations that could be accessed by a car and are within 50 miles, lifting daily booking rates up by 13%. 

Even though the health crisis initially forced it to cut jobs, the US holiday rental firm outperformed hotel operators who rely more on business travel, throughout 2020, thanks to its large share of "sun, ski, and suburban" rental homes. 

"Nights booked prior to cancellations in North America were close to the levels reached in the same quarter of 2019," the company said. 

Airbnb expects wider vaccine rollouts in 2021 to help a significant rebound in travel.

It said both nights booked as well as gross bookings in the current quarter are expected to be higher than a year ago, but lower than the same period in 2019. 

The company's gross bookings fell 31% to $5.9 billion in the fourth quarter ended December 31, but beat market expectation of $5.17 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. 

Nights and experiences booked at Airbnb dropped 39% to 46.3 million units, but was better than the Wall Street's estimate of a 47% drop. 

Business in Europe was the most affected in the quarter due to travel curbs as a result of surging coronavirus infections. 

Airbnb's overall revenue fell 22% to $859m, while adjusted loss before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation shrank to about $21m from $276.4m a year earlier. 

Analysts on average expected Airbnb to post revenue of $747.4m and adjusted loss before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation of $122m.