On March 14th, we wrote an open-letter to Airbnb on how Airbnb’s unilateral cancellation policy changes in light of the coronavirus epidemic was financially devastating hosts. Since then, we’ve seen thousands of Airbnb hosts express the hardships they’ve been facing, from having to lay off their staff to even losing their homes and calling on Airbnb to support the hosts upon whom they’ve built a multi-billion dollar business.
In a video chat today, Airbnb’s co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky demonstrated, at last, that Airbnb is willing to share the financial burden of getting through the coronavirus and is eager to help hosts survive these extremely challenging months. He started off by expressing his regret that “over time, I’ve gotten further away from hosts;” and though he re-iterated his belief that extending the cancellation policy through May 31st was the right thing to do, he apologized for reaching this decision without consulting hosts, say “I’m sorry that we didn’t consult you as partners. We want to fix this.”
To help hosts, he announced 4 actions that he hoped would make these difficult times a bit easier for hosts:
1. $250M HOST RELIEF FUND
Airbnb created a $250 million Host Relief Fund to reimburse hosts for 25% of what they would have received had Airbnb allowed the hosts’ cancellation policies to remain in effect. (Thus, hosts who had strict cancellation policies can expect a much greater reimbursement than those who had moderate or flexible cancellation policies)
For a reservation to be eligible under Airbnb’s extenuating circumstances policy, it must have been booked on or before March 14 with a check-in between March 14 and May 31, 2020. If a reservation is covered:
- Guests will be able to cancel for a full refund for COVID-19-related circumstances.
- From Airbnb’s $250 million USD Host Relief Fund, Airbnb will pay 25% of what hosts would’ve received for a cancellation based on your cancellation policy. For example, if a hosts would normally receive $400 USD through your cancellation policy, Airbnb will pay that host 25% of that—or $100 USD.
- Airbnb will send an email with more details in early April to hosts who are getting a payout. Future payments from the fund will be made on a monthly basis to hosts with qualifying cancellations.
- This policy will also apply retroactively, including any cancellations hosts may have had since March 14.
For any reservations booked after March 14, hosts’ cancellation policy will be in effect as usual and COVID-19-related extenuating circumstances will not apply.
2. $10M SET ASIDE FOR $5k SUPERHOST RELIEF GRANTS
This fund started with Airbnb employee donations and provides grants for rent and mortgage payments of up to $5K, that will not need to be paid back.
“Because communities support each other in times like these, Airbnb’s employees have donated $1 million from their own pockets to kickstart a fund for hosts struggling to make ends meet. Airbnb’s founders are also personally contributing $9 million. We’re here to help you weather the storm, and we’ll get through it together. If you meet the eligibility criteria, we’ll invite you to apply and start sending out grants in late April 2020.”
3. PREVIOUS GUESTS WILL BE ABLE TO SEND HOSTS A PERSONAL CONTRIBUTION
Just as there have been many consumer-driven efforts to support struggling small businesses such as restaurants through the devastating coronavirus season, Airbnb is hoping to tap into this spirit with its guests. Starting in April, Airbnb will offer a system for guests to send their hosts a supportive note and attach a contribution if they would like to show their appreciation and support hosts they’ve stayed with previously.
4. FOR US HOSTS, PROVISIONS IN THE GOVERNMENT STIMULUS BILL
Finally, Chesky noted how, in the United States, hosts can benefit from numerous provisions of the recently passed economic stimulus bill and pledged to work for similar measures in other countries.
Chesky concluded by noting “This is just a start,” promising that Airbnb is working on “building a number of new programs, new ways to drive demand to you to help you build your business.”
For example, Chesky said that a team is looking at travel and business continuity insurance options.
While hosts will undoubtedly continue to struggle through this spring and summer, which is when many normally would have accumulated the revenue needed to support themselves through slower fall and winter months, it’s encouraging to see that Airbnb has begun to share in the financial burden and that it recognizes it has much still to do to support the hosts who are its “lifeblood.”