Airbnb, the home rental company, will be temporarily restricting UK listings. The only exception will be for essential workers who are at the Frontline of the coronavirus pandemic who require accommodation.
Response to the Pandemic
Airbnb was one of the companies praised for their response in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company demonstrated that their values are not merely empty words. Airbnb places a lot of importance on their hosts and aims to be more of a community than a business. This was proven when they stepped in to offer financial support to their hosts to cover coronavirus-related cancellations. They put $250 million (£201m) towards the cost of cancellations to offer some sort of financial buffer for hosts. For their “super hosts”, they set up a special relief fund offering grants of up to $5,000 for those most affected. Other measures were in place to facilitate any guests wanting to support those hosts suffering difficult financial times.
In spite of these positive steps, Airbnb has come under criticism in the past few weeks. Evidence has been found that some hosts have been exploiting the coronavirus in order to make some extra cash. Their listings have remained active and they have been marketing them as “isolation retreats” or properties “perfect for isolating”. Additionally, the “instant book” function was still active on many listings, allowing guests to book without any prior screening. As a result, the company has been called irresponsible and dangerous, causing them to intervene.
The only exception is for frontline workers. Airbnb has collaborated with hosts worldwide to offer 100,000 to key workers during the pandemic. This new initiative, Frontline Stays, works to home thousands of key workers across 160 countries. London is one of the many cities which is part of the programme and has over 2,000 available places to stay. The programme is eligible for anyone doing essential work including NHS staff, social care workers, transport employees and food retail employees. Airbnb will review frontline workers’ submissions, including professional information and housing needs, and then help them in their search by connecting them with hosts. In addition, Airbnb has agreed to waive all fees for the first 100,000 stays booked through the initiative.