Airbnb proposes flexible reservation policies over coronavirus

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The FINANCIAL — Since the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Airbnb has been closely monitoring official news and guidance in order to support community of hosts, guests, and employees around the world. The new program is called “More Flexible Reservations,” and it has been designed to ” help hosts and guests.

Airbnb Inc. is making adjustments to its refund policy in an attempt to balance the needs of hosts and guests on its home-sharing site amid the global coronavirus outbreak that has severely reduced travel demand. Because Airbnb operates as an online platform — connecting people who want to rent out all or part of their home with travelers seeking accommodations — it’s choosing to take a lighter touch with hosts. The San Francisco-based startup said it will reward hosts who are more flexible or generous on offering refunds. The company will offer promotions for those listings to drive new bookings and will waive the standard 3% host fee on new reservations for those listings through June 1, Bloomberg reported.

The new program is called “More Flexible Reservations,” and it has been designed to ” help hosts and guests navigate uncertainty and meet their needs to cancel or postpone their hosting and travel plans. “According to the company, the program will “give travelers more peace of mind when booking and help hosts secure more reservations in the long run.” For hosts, Airbnb will provide more options for offering “extra refunds” through its platforms. The company will also help promote listings affected by cancellations and waive its standard 3 percent host fee on new reservations through June 1, FOX wrote.

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Guests will have filters that make it easier to find and book accommodation options that have the most appropriate cancellation policy (Flexible, Moderate or Strict), according to their needs and the current outlook on COVID-19, according to Airbnb.

“We will also do our part to provide guests more peace of mind. For bookings made now through June 1, 2020, if guests need to cancel and are not due a refund of the Airbnb guest service fee, we will refund that fee as a travel coupon which can be used on a future trip,” is said in Airbnb’s statement.

“We know that many of our travelers book places to stay on Airbnb for events like Coachella, SXSW, Mobile World Congress, and others. If an event has been canceled and it’s not in an area covered by our extenuating circumstances policy, we’re encouraging guests to check the cancelation policy on their reservation. We’ll be rolling out a tool so hosts can refund reservations like these that aren’t covered under our extenuating circumstances policy,” company wrote. Airbnb has now begun issuing those refunds, with Riverside County’s declaration of a local health emergency possibly being cited as a grounds for legitimate cancelation. That would mark a stark change from the policy which had been in place heretofore, which found many distressed SXSW attendees struggling to get their money back. Nonetheless, Airbnb still recommends that travelers attempt to work with hosts to simply swap to the October dates if possible, before demanding a refund, Los Angeles Magazine wrote.

“While it is clear that the Coronavirus will have an impact on the entire travel and tourism industry, we believe travel will recover in the long run. It is one of the largest and most resilient industries in the world. We are committed to doing everything we can to support all of our stakeholders in this unique business model,” Airbnb stated.

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