Airbnb pays $415m to cover cancellations amid pandemic

Airbnb has announced it will pay $US250 million ($A406 million) to hosts around the world to help cover the cost of COVID-19 cancellations.

It has also extended its Extenuating Circumstances cancellation policy for guests to include reservations that begin anytime on or before May 31, if booked before March 14. Previously, it only applied to reservations up until April 14.

The homesharing website has over seven million accommodations and 40,000 experiences, powered by local hosts.

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Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky made the announcement on Tuesday, along with details of a $16.5m dollar Superhost Relief Fund.

The fund is for Superhosts who rent out their own home and need help paying their rent or mortgage, plus long-tenured Experience hosts trying to make ends meet. A Superhost is an experienced Airbnb host who provides an exceptional service, according to their guests.

The Superhost Relief Fund began with $1.65 million dollars in donations, and the remainder comes from donations by Airbnb’s three co-founders.

Mr Chesky has also praised the response from hosts globally to assist in housing over 100,000 medical workers on the front lines. To date, over 40,000 hosts have already opted in to help. Only spaces where there are no other people, can be considered to house medical workers.

Hosts are also required to wait 72 hours between reservations to properly clean, disinfect, and turn over the space for future guests.

The main fund will see Airbnb paying hosts 25 per cent of what they would normally receive through their cancellation policy. This applies retroactively to all COVID-19 related cancellations during this period.

This cost will be covered entirely by Airbnb and payments will begin to be issued in April.

Mr Chesky said it had been a devastating couple of months for everyone.

“As I see the news every day, my heart goes out to all the countries, communities, and families that are being overwhelmed by the scale and impact of this crisis,” he said in a statement.

“Amid all this, the global travel industry has come to a halt. Airlines are grounded and borders are closed. Most of us – including our hosts and guests – are on government advised lockdowns, unable to leave our homes. Travel as we know it is almost impossible.

“On March 11, when the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic, we were faced with a dilemma. If we allowed guests to cancel and receive a refund, we knew it could have significant consequences on hosts’ livelihood.

“But, we couldn’t have guests and hosts feel pressured to put themselves into unsafe situations and create an additional public health hazard. We determined that we had to allow guests to cancel and receive a full refund — including all our fees. This decision was not a business decision, but based on protecting public health.

“When a hosts’ business suffers, our business suffers. We know that right now many hosts are struggling, and what they need are actions from us to help, not just words.

“When travel comes back – and it will – we look forward to welcoming millions of guests together with the host community again.”

This article originally appeared on the New Zealand Herald and has been republished with permission

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