Airbnb says it’s “sorry” for mangling communication to hosts about its refund policy amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Following the World Health Organization’s declaration of a pandemic on March 11, Airbnb instated a policy wherein guests would receive a full refund - regardless of host consent - on reservations with check-in dates between March 14 and April 14. (Reservations outside of that window were subject to the individual host’s cancelation policy.)
In a letter sent to hosts, Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky says the decision was made not in the interest of business, but of protecting public health.
“If we allowed guests to cancel and receive a refund, we knew it could have significant consequences on your [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 your guests to cancel and receive a full refund - including all our fees.”
Chesky continues: “While I believe we did the right thing in prioritizing health and safety, I’m sorry that we communicated this decision to guests without consulting you - like partners should. We have heard from you and we know we could have been better partners.”
To that end, Chesky says Airbnb will pay $250 million to hosts to help cover the cost of coronavirus-related cancelations.
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For reservations with check-ins between March 14 and May 31, the company will pay hosts 25% of what they normally would receive through their cancelation policies. Payments will start being issued in April and will apply retroactively to all COVID-19-related cancelations during that period.
Guests with reservations booked on or before March 14 will continue to be able to cancel and receive a 100% refund or travel credit.
Airbnb is also creating a $10 million Superhost Relief Fund, designed to assist Superhosts who need help paying their rent or mortgages, as well as long-tenured Experiences hosts.
Chesky says Airbnb’s employees started the fund with $1 million in donations, and he and co-founders Joe Gebbia and Nate Blecharczykare are personally contributing the remaining $9 million.
In April, hosts can apply for grants for as much as $5,000 that will not need paid back.
Also expected in April is a way for guests to send financial support to hosts they’ve previously stayed with, Chesky says.
In addition to urging the United States government for host support, Chesky says Airbnb is working on other initiatives to help hosts rebound including around cleanliness.