Airbnb announces relief package. Some hosts say it’s not enough

Mea culpa follows backlash about cancellation-policy switchup

TRD NATIONAL /
Mar.March 31, 2020 01:00 PM
Brian Chesky (Credit: Richard Bord/Getty Images)

Brian Chesky (Credit: Richard Bord/Getty Images)

Once again, Airbnb is in damage control.

After facing backlash from hosts for changing its cancellation policy in response to Covid-19 — offering guests full refunds without penalties — the startup’s CEO has announced a relief package and issued an apology.

“I’m sorry that we communicated this decision to guests without consulting you—like partners should,” Brian Chesky said in an open letter to hosts. The company has established a $10 million relief fund for “superhosts” who rely on Airbnb for their income. The company will also cover 25 percent of what hosts would have been paid from their cancellation policies for reservations with a check-in date between March 14 and May 31.

But some hosts say the relief doesn’t go far enough. Airbnb’s platform has three cancellation policies to choose from and the strictest one guarantees hosts a 50 percent refund on the total booking value, meaning the relief package will cover just half of that — or quarter of the value.

“It makes for a nice press release but it does nothing to alleviate hosts’ dire financial straits,” one told The Real Deal. “I know many hosts that have already sold or listed their units for rent.”

Airbnb has made several public appeals in recent weeks as it struggles to navigate the economic fallout of Covid-19, which has ground global tourism to a halt and caused bookings to plummet. This week, the company told employees it would suspend all marketing and pause hiring as it tries to quell hundreds of millions in losses. Chesky has not ruled out the possibility of layoffs.

Before the pandemic hit, the company was on somewhat of a public-relations blitz ahead of a planned 2020 public offering — announcing a raft of new measures to address safety issues on its platform. The company, which was last valued at $31 billion, has declined to comment on whether its IPO plans have changed in light of the virus.

The rift between Airbnb and its hosts started mid-March, when the company expanded its “extenuating circumstances” policy to assist travellers around the world whose plans had been derailed by the pandemic. The policy change meant guests with bookings made before March 14 could cancel their accommodation and get full refunds on their bookings, without forfeiting any to hosts.

In an interview March 18, superhost Joy Rose told TRD she was “shocked” by the decision and how it was communicated.

“We are the worker bees of Airbnb,” she said. “We’re the ones doing the labor; we’re the ones cleaning our houses and making them great. So to not consult us, and to unilaterally make this decision, is extremely harmful.”

Reached for comment Tuesday, Rose said she didn’t think the offer of 25 percent back on cancelled bookings was adequate.

Airbnb has invited hosts who meet an eligibility criteria to apply for funding in late April. Applications will then be reviewed by a “specialized team” who will “select only those hosts who demonstrate the most need,” according to the company’s website.

Rose, who relies on income from Airbnb and has lost at least a dozen bookings to the pandemic, said she was wary of trying to navigate Airbnb’s relief program, which she predicted would create more administrative headaches for hosts.

“Like everyone else, I don’t know what the ‘f’ is going on in my world right now and you’ve added 12 extra steps to make it more confusing,” she said.

Write to Sylvia Varnham O’Regan at [email protected]


Related Articles

arrow_forward_ios
From left: Mayor Bill de Blasio, 54 West 39th Street, 62 Grand Street, and 208 West 30th Street (Credit: Google Maps)

The Airbnb crackdown continues: City targets three more buildings

The Airbnb crackdown continues: City targets three more buildings
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Stanley “Skip” Karol, an Airbnb host (Credit: Getty Images and Youtube)

Airbnb host narrowly clears hurdle in First Amendment claim against city

Airbnb host narrowly clears hurdle in First Amendment claim against city
A West Village Airbnb listing (Credit: Airbnb)

Airbnb Luxe launched without listings in one of their biggest potential markets — why?

Airbnb Luxe launched without listings in one of their biggest potential markets — why?
(Credit: iStock)

Loophole allowed big-name landlords to get bailout funds

Loophole allowed big-name landlords to get bailout funds
The process for challenging property assessments is so antiquated, officials won’t do Zoom meetings. (iStock)

“A recipe for disaster”: Fighting property taxes in a pandemic

“A recipe for disaster”: Fighting property taxes in a pandemic
Clockwise from left: Bronx housing court at 1118 Grand Concourse, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Judge Lawrence Marks, New York Supreme Court at 60 Centre Street (Getty; Google Maps; Wikipedia; New York State Courts)

Attorneys find ways to “eject” tenants without Housing Court

Attorneys find ways to “eject” tenants without Housing Court
Cadillac Fairview CEO John Sullivan and the RCB Centre in Toronto (Google)

This Canadian office giant has a strategy for a return to work

This Canadian office giant has a strategy for a return to work
Bars, restaurants and live entertainment venues around the world are now weighing their reopening options. Some owners say they can’t cover the cost of operating at reduced capacity. (Getty)

Facing the music: Entertainment venues, restaurants weigh reopening options

Facing the music: Entertainment venues, restaurants weigh reopening options
arrow_forward_ios

The Deal's newsletters give you the latest scoops, fresh headlines, marketing data, and things to know within the industry.

Loading...