Airbnb further expands coronavirus response as hosts face loss of revenue

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As the coronavirus spreads across the world, vacation rental company Airbnb expanded its extenuating circumstances policy on Saturday, allowing nearly all travelers to cancel reservations without penalty.

Now, most travelers who have booked with the company will receive penalty-free refunds for reservations, and thousands of travelers are canceling reservations and choosing to stay home.

Here’s what you need to know about booking with Airbnb:

What is the extenuating circumstances policy?

Airbnb bookings come with one of six cancellation policies set by the host, which range from flexible to super strict. These are set by the host.

The company can override these conditions with its Extenuating Circumstances Policyand it is the number of cancellations linked to Covid-19 that may give rise to refunds.

When the Airbnb website recognizes that guests are traveling to or from certain affected areas, an automated message is generated offering the option to cancel without penalty.

Even if travelers do not receive this automated message, they can still cancel their reservation and submit a refund request within 14 days of cancellation.

What areas are covered?

As President Trump’s Schengen travel ban goes into effect and confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the United States rise, Airbnb has made the area covered by the extenuating circumstances policy global.

All reservations made before March 14, with arrival dates from March 14 to April 14, are eligible for cancellations without penalty. Hosts and guests can choose to cancel the reservation.

Airbnb Experiences, where guests can book tours, classes and workshops, are also covered by the new policy.

The only exception is for domestic travel in mainland China. On April 1, standard cancellation policies are back in effect.

What about Vrbo?

Not all travel companies offer exceptions for coronavirus cancellations. The Vrbo vacation rental did not offer any Exceptions related to Covid-19 to its cancellation policy.

In a letter dated March 14, Vrbo president Jeff Hurst recommended that travelers contact the owners to request a cancellation without penalty.

Contact the owners in a letter of March 12, Hurst suggested they remain open to such requests. “In the spirit of good hospitality,” he wrote, “we strongly encourage you to offer a full refund.”

What about Airbnb hosts?

Travelers aren’t the only ones feeling the pain of canceled trips. Thousands of Airbnb hosts around the world are facing a loss of revenue.

On the Airhosts forum, a popular platform for Airbnb hosts, users are sharing their concerns about the financial impact of refunding money.

In some cases, the 50% deposit paid by guests to Airbnb (which holds deposits for up to 24 hours after check-in) can amount to hundreds or even thousands of dollars, something hosts will never get when travelers cancel their reservations, whether or not. they are not in an area already severely affected by the coronavirus. (The Notes on the CDC’s Global Outbreak Advisory that sustained community spread of the coronavirus is occurring around the world.)

On March 14, Host GPO, the short-term vacation rental purchasing organization, released an open letter to Airbnb regarding the new refund policy.

“Extending refunds to virtually everyone through April 1,” they write, “will be absolutely devastating for hosts.” Arguing that the decision is a breach of company policy, the letter asks Airbnb to reconsider.

“To prevent hosts from losing their livelihoods, it’s important to ensure they survive the unprecedented onslaught of cancellations.”

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