In response to the coronavirus and resulting changes to travel plans, conferences, etc. Airbnb made a decision to override host cancellation policies (previously set individually by property per preference) and issue full refunds to all guests during a certain period impacted by the coronavirus. From the Airbnb coronavirus FAQ page:
” Reservations made on or before March 14, 2020 for stays and Airbnb Experiences, with a check-in date between March 14, 2020 and April 14, 2020, are covered by the policy and may be cancelled before check-in. Guests who cancel will receive a full refund, and hosts can cancel without charge or impact to their Superhost status. Airbnb will refund all service fees for covered cancellations. “
This policy change has angered a number of hosts that are now left without revenue and with mortgage payments and other costs to cover. I find the policy change acceptable given the circumstances, and that it may reduce pressure on guests to travel when not ideal to do so. Although my properties are all essentially empty for the foreseeable future it seems the right thing to do and I’m happy to refund guests for changes in plans, as is my typical stance. I would guess most other hosts feel the same.
A separate change to Airbnb policies that I haven’t seen disclosed to hosts / owners is that Airbnb has apparently put a 2 week block on any new bookings. I learned of this when a repeat guest attempted to book my property for the next month and was denied the ability, receiving the following message (apologies for the poor image quality):
In case you can’t read the image message it states: “Choose another place to stay. As part of our commitment to your safety, certain last-minute bookings of entire homes are restricted right now. You can still book a hotel or private room for your stay.”
After receiving this message, a call to Airbnb resulted in the information that a “last-minute booking” was any booking starting within 2 weeks. In my experience 2 weeks is not last-minute, which I would generally assume to be 24-48 hours in advance of a stay. It also sheds some light on why my properties were receiving a similar amount of views per week as in the past, but no booking inquiries or messages. I can only guess how many potential guests I (and the millions of other hosts, if this policy is global) have lost on revenue and bookings. Additionally, Airbnb steering customers / guests to hotels, their primary competition, and private rooms, in a time of contagion, seems odd and a bit suspect. Perhaps this advice is to cater to guests that are less likely to cancel or to offload guests in a time of trouble to hotels to deal with?
The combination of overriding host refund policies and then apparently blocking new bookings for the upcoming 2 weeks seems likely to hurt hosts, and potentially guests that are looking for bookings after being removed from college campuses, or other removals due to the coronavirus. Sudden policy changes may also weaken confidence and trust in the platform – a major issue for a marketplace for connecting people.
I wanted to share my experience with other hosts as I was surprised by the block on new bookings and don’t think this information is currently publicly available.
I very much enjoy being an Airbnb host and use the platform almost exclusively when our family is traveling. However, making major changes like these without informing hosts (before or after the changes are enacted) is a problem, and not the only one that Airbnb seems to make without remorse. To my knowledge, over-charging Airbnb guests to San Diego continues years after being informed by multiple hosts the hotel tax calculations are incorrect. Apparently, a world-wide technology company valued in billions of dollars is unable to calculate local hotel taxes they voluntarily offered to pay. All of these aspects don’t make a good look for the “live like a local” ethos of Airbnb.