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.
“When a crisis like coronavirus hits, we know both hosts and guests are affected,” Airbnb said in a statement Tuesday. “Hosts lose earnings that they rely on to make ends meet. Guests are losing hard-earned vacation savings.”
Airbnb’s policy is that all reservations are able to be canceled within 48 hours of booking for a full refund. Beyond that, it’s up to hosts to determine the refund policy, which are stated on the listings and range from flexible to strict.
Since the coronavirus became more widespread, Airbnb has been granting full refunds to people traveling to China, South Korea and Italy.
Airbnb also announced some changes Tuesday meant to encourage people to keep booking trips on its platform. The company will return the service fee guests pay to Airbnb as a coupon for future reservations if people cancel their trips on bookings made from now through June 1. That doesn’t guarantee that hosts offer a refund and it doesn’t help people who already booked their trips.
“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,” Airbnb said.