Airbnb Pledges $250 Million to Hosts to Offset Coronavirus Cancellations

Online vacation-rental broker Airbnb will allocate as much as $250 million to help offset losses by hosts whose guests have canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Online travel and vacation-rental broker Airbnb announced plans to allocate as much as $250 million to help offset losses by hosts whose guests have canceled bookings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter, Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky said the company would pay hosts 25% of their normal cancellation fees, which would include part of the accommodation costs that a guest would have paid had they gone through with the reservation. The offer is to all Airbnb hosts except for those based in China.

The move follows Airbnb’s announcement earlier this month that guests could get full refunds for certain reservations where they either could not physically make it to their destination, or where hosts or guests felt unsafe or uncomfortable during the pandemic.

The payments to hosts apply to the cancellation of reservations with check-in dates between March 14 and May 31, the company said in a statement. 

Because hosts can choose different cancellation policies - some requiring a penalty payment with others allowing free cancellation up to a certain date before check-in - not all canceled reservations will qualify for a payment.

Airbnb had earlier announced that guests would receive a full refund for the cancellation of reservations made on or before March 14 for check-in between March 14 and April 14. Airbnb also said that hosts could cancel reservations without a charge.

However, Chesky clarified that hosts too will receive compensation for their losses.

"Most of us -including our guests - are on government advised lockdowns, unable to leave our homes," Chesky wrote. "Travel as we know it is almost impossible."

Airbnb also said it was creating a $10 million relief fund for so-called Superhosts - hosts named for meeting certain requirements including good ratings - who rent out their own home and need help paying their rent or mortgage. 

It will also assist so-called “Experience” hosts who also offer experiences with rentals such as zip lines and jungle excursions or photography at night.

Hosts can apply for grants for up to $5,000. That fund started with Airbnb employee donations of $1 million and the company’s three founders are personally contributing the rest, it said.

Airbnb also said it worked to secure support for hosts in the recent U.S. stimulus bill that will allow some hosts to benefit from small-business grants, loans and unemployment assistance.

The company last September said it planned to list its shares in 2020. So far it has not announced any change to that plan.