Will booking an Airbnb in Ukraine really help those in need?

Well-meaning people have booked over 434,000 Airbnb stays in Ukraine to try to help those who are directly affected by the Russian invasion.

A basic movement starts with Airbnb users to book accommodation in Ukraine without intention to visit as a way to donate to those in need has gone viral. The accommodation booking platform subsequently waived all guest and host fees for stays booked in the country.

People all over the world want to help and are using the platform as a way to send money to host families in Kyiv, Odessa, Kharkov and many other parts of the country.

As of March 12, about $15 million had been pledged on the site, according to Airbnb chief executive Brian Chesky.

But is booking an Airbnb stay really the most effective way to help those in need?

If I book a stay on Airbnb, am I helping people in Ukraine?

Many Airbnb hosts in Ukraine have indeed received money from the stays promised by those around the world, and the hosts have expressed their appreciation.

But people who book such stays should be aware that they don’t always give their money to those who need it most. It is because the poorest Ukrainians are unlikely to have listings on Airbnb or even have access to reliable internet.

It can be difficult to know exactly who is behind an ad. Airbnb does not identify whether the hosts listed are professional property managers, investors, or just an average person trying to rent a room.

This confusion has already surfaced. In 2018, Airbnb was found guilty of violating the European Union laws by not clearly identifying whether the accommodation was offered by amateur or professional hosts. The question was important because the level of consumer rights differs according to the status of the owner.

Who are the hosts offering properties on Airbnb?

In 2018, Airbnb broke European Union laws for failing to clearly identify whether accommodation was offered by amateur or professional hosts, with consumer rights differing depending on the status of the owner.  PA

Even if you take the time to read a host’s profile on Airbnb, it’s not always easy to know exactly who they are.

For example, a one bedroom apartment in the center of Kyiv is listed by a woman named Yuliya. By clicking on her profile, it is easy to see that her identity has been verified by Airbnb and that she has been on the site since 2015.

However, clicking to the next page shows that not only does Yuliya have four luxury apartments for rent, but that she also lives in Berlinnot in Ukraine.

Clicking on a host's profile on Airbnb can offer more information about who they are and where they live

The National contacted Airbnb to see if plans were in place to clearly indicate which properties on the site are listed by individual Ukrainian hosts. The host did not answer the question.

Instead, a spokesperson advised people to read “host and listing profiles” carefully and said the company “always keeps measures to detect and deter fraudulent activity under constant review.”

When do people receive the money that Airbnb users send them through bookings?

Airbnb hosts typically receive funds for reservations 24 hours after a guest is supposed to check in.  Photo: Airbnb

Airbnb’s standard policy is that hosts are paid approximately 24 hours after guests’ scheduled arrival time. This happens regardless of whether a customer physically checks in or not.

However, it may take longer than 24 hours for payments to the method selected by Airbnb hosts. Payments by international transfer take three to seven days, while payments by bank transfer generally take around seven days to arrive in host accounts.

This means that while hosts will ultimately receive the money you promised them, there may be much faster ways to send funds, especially if the property is fully booked on all dates in the near future. coming.

Does booking an Airbnb stay take away a room from someone who might need it?

A major flaw in the trend of booking Airbnb stays in Ukraine with no intention of traveling there means that rooms could become unavailable for other people to book.

While hosts will benefit from your booking money, people trying to find accommodation, perhaps in a safer part of the country after being displaced, may not be able to find accommodation options. through Airbnb as hosts can only accept one booking. for each announcement on a given date.

Does Airbnb cancel reservations given in Ukraine?

Several people who booked stays in Ukraine through Airbnb have now reported that their reservations were later canceled and refunded.

Reservations may be automatically canceled if hosts are unable to accept reservations in time. If hosts haven’t enabled automatic reservation acceptance in their Airbnb profile, they have a specified time limit to respond to a reservation.

With an ongoing war in Ukraine, it may not always be possible for hosts to accept funds promised to them via bookings.

Twitter user @Marciano suggested that Airbnb enable auto-acceptance for all bookings in Ukraine, as people there have “more on their minds than responding to Airbnb bookings”.

Hosts in Ukraine have reported deactivating their accounts after adding new listings or canceling upcoming “ghost” bookings to try to be able to accept new bookings and obtain more needed funds.

Airbnb did not respond Nationals question about why accounts and reservations were cancelled. However, a company spokesperson recently confirmed Protocol tech site that it had suspended a handful of hosts who “did not support this effort in the spirit intended”.

How can I make sure I’m booking a legitimate Airbnb in Ukraine?

An Airbnb room offered for rent in the Ukrainian city of Odessa.  Photo: Airbnb

There are a few steps to follow to help discern if an Airbnb host is really in need.

First, avoid booking a new Airbnb listing. Check reviews and make sure they are older than about a month to make sure the property has not been recently listed on the site to take advantage of charitable donations since the start of the war.

Naturally, some Ukrainians may have recently added listings to the site to try and get funds to survive, but unfortunately scammers and lucky people also had the same idea.

“Customers can view a host’s profile to see how many listings they have and view the listing’s review history to see how long the listing has been active,” a spokesperson suggested. ‘Airbnb.

Is there a better way to help Ukrainians?

Refugees fleeing Ukraine receive help from the International Red Cross and other charities at the Vysne Nemecke border.  Getty Images

While most people booking stays on Airbnb simply want to help out, there are better ways to ensure the money gets to the people who need it most.

The non-profit arm of Airbnb Airbnb.org pledged to house 100,000 refugees in short-term accommodation and has banners across the platform – including on Ukraine listing searches – directing users to the website for the initiative. It encourages residents of neighboring countries who can accommodate people fleeing war to register on the platform.

“As of March 13, approximately 36,000 hosts on Airbnb.org pledged to offer their homes to refugees around the world. Over 21,500 new hosts signed up in the past two weeks [from February 28 to March 13]”said an Airbnb spokesperson.

Some travelers knowing Airbnb to book a holiday may be more inclined to donate to Ukraine if they are able to do so through a service they have used before. So in that sense donating through Airbnb is probably better than not helping at all.

But there are other initiatives that can better guarantee donations will reach those who need it most. the Red Cross is recognized worldwide as a charitable organization and accepts donations for Ukrainians.

Several other charities also support the cause. resources such as the BBB Wise Giving Alliance lists charities that raise funds for relief efforts, and Charity Navigator ranks organizations based on the trust people can have by donating to them.

Anyone who works in the hospitality industry can get in touch with Hospitality helps, a platform set up by Ukrainian Sofia Widmann to connect refugees to available hotel rooms. Several renowned hotel groups including Marriott and hilton have joined the platform. It currently has 358 partner hotels in a total of 41 countries.

Updated: March 17, 2022, 1:57 p.m.

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