Airbnb to disburse RM1b to offset losses by hosts worldwide

by S BIRRUNTHA/ pic by BLOOMBERG

HOME-sharing company Airbnb will pay out US$250 million (RM1.08 billion) to hosts on its platform who have lost money on cancelled bookings in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Its co-founder, CEO and head of community Brian Chesky (picture) said the aid, which will pay hosts 25% of their normal cancellation fees, is being offered globally except for China.

The payments apply to the cancellation of reservations with check-in dates between March 14 and May 31.

“This applies retroactively to all Covid-19-related cancellations during this period. This cost will be covered entirely by Airbnb. These payments will begin to be issued in April,” Chesky said in a letter sent to hosts yesterday.

He added that guests with reservations booked on or before March 14 will still be able to cancel and receive a standard refund or travel credit equivalent for 100% of what they paid.

Earlier, the US-based start-up firm faced backlash from guests and hosts over its refund policies related to the global pandemic.

Reports stated that Airbnb initially resisted to refund American guests over coronavirus-related cancellations, relenting only after the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak a global pandemic on March 11.

Later, Airbnb announced that guests would receive a full refund for the cancellation of reservations made on or before March 14 for check-ins between March 14 and April 14, which caused dissatisfaction among many hosts.

On that note, Chesky said if the firm allowed guests to cancel and receive refunds, he knew there would be significant consequences on their livelihood.

“But we could not have guests and hosts feel pressured to put themselves into unsafe situations and create an additional public health hazard,” he wrote.

Additionally, Chesky also said Airbnb is creating a US$10 million relief fund for its Superhosts.

This is for those who rent out their own home and need help paying their rent or mortgage and for long-tenured experienced hosts who are trying to make ends meet.

“Starting in April, hosts can apply for grants of up to US$5,000 that do not need to be paid back,” he said.

He added that the fund was created with Airbnb employee donations of US$1 million while the company’s three founders are personally contributing the remaining US$9 million.

The firm is also working to secure support for hosts in the recent US government’s Covid-19 stimulus bill.

Chesky said this is expected to benefit hosts from small-business grants, loans and unemployment assistance.

“We are also working on other initiatives and we will provide more details in the coming weeks.

“These include actively working with experts and epidemiologists on cleanliness standards to keep you and your guests safe, trip insurance for you and your guests, and programmes to deliver demand to help rebuild your business,” he added.