As the year 2020 goes on, the one common concern that has been steadily creeping into all possible events, subjects and topics of discussion is the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which originated in China and has spread alarmingly throughout the world. Its exponential infection rate has all but paralyzed several national economies, with travel bans and lockdowns being implemented. A multitude of concerts, conventions and movie premieres have either been pushed back or put off indefinitely because of the outbreak. Even the world hospitality sector has taken hits with the increasing reluctance to travel, particularly online hospitality market platform Airbnb.
The Verge tells us that online hospitality brokering and booking service Airbnb is being forced to hunker down as the novel coronavirus infection rolls across the world, increasingly souring prospective globetrotters from going anywhere. Many Airbnb customers who have made bookings for listed lodging, homestay or offerings hosting on the platform have begun cancelling their plans. Such a mass backing-off could drive the listed hosts to potentially large losses were it not for Airbnb opting to make a temporary change in their online reservation policies. This policy revamp will be left in effect for nearly all that remains of the first half of this year.
To wit, Airbnb will for a time not charge their listed hosts with the 3 percent fee that is excised from them anytime they would refund more money from a guest’s cancelled booking than is required in the platform’s cancellation policy. In that way, both the guests who have changed their minds about their bookings, and the hosts they would have booked with, will not lose much money in their cancelled transactions. Airbnb hosts will have to opt into this feature, collectively titled “More Flexible Reservations,” but those who did avail will have their hospitality offerings be given priority visibility in the app’s lodging listings.
From the guests’ end, they will not stand to lose much of their booking money when cancelling thanks to Airbnb also waiving the 14 percent guest service fee. When guests get no service fee charged from them, they will receive a travel coupon in that same amount that they could keep for when they want to use it in future.
While these arrangements, which will last until June 1 according to the Airbnb website news blog, are already a significant load off from guests and hosts who are cancelling bookings due to trying times, the service’s policy also includes a proviso for “extenuating circumstances,” wherein a guest that can claim having travelled to or from a host location with a “severely impacted” status under the COVID-19 outbreak, can thus claim a 100 percent booking refund. Such claims will be studied carefully by Airbnb as the conditions of countries with confirmed infected cases change over time.
Image courtesy of Airbnb website