A breakdown of Airbnb's action plan to support hosts

On the 31st of March 2020, all Airbnb hosts received an email from its CEO, Brian Chesky, with a 15-minute video apology. The video addressed how Airbnb did not consult hosts about the global change in their cancellation policy due to COVID-19, and actions the company will be taking to help their partners (hosts) in this time.

We’ve scraped through all the information to break down exactly what it all means for you, if you’re eligible for support, and how you can get help.

1. Airbnb will pay $250 million to hosts to help cover the cost of COVID-19 cancellations

When a guest cancels an accommodation reservation due to a COVID-19 related circumstance, with a check-in between March 14 and May 31, we will pay you 25% of what you would normally receive through your cancellation policy.

On further reading, these payments will be done automatically starting from April. The key takeaway here is that it only applies to a quarter of what you would normally receive through your cancellation policy. There are currently 6 different cancellation options for Airbnb hosts, and this table helps you get a better understanding on how much you will likely get back based on your cancellation policy. The examples in this table are based on a 5-night stay with a total of $500.

Hosts that have a non-refundable policy in place are the winners of this relief. After further reading through the terms, some additional points include:

  1. For any reservations booked after March 14 2020, your cancellation policy will be in effect as per normal and COVID-19 related extenuating circumstances will not apply.

  2. Airbnb is waiving all host and guest fees on COVID-19 cancellations.

  3. When guests cancel due to COVID-19-related circumstances, they'll have the option to take either a cash refund or a travel credit that can be used for a stay at a later date not specific to your listing (it can be used anywhere across Airbnb).

The content was not clear on what specifically determines as "COVID-19-related circumstances".

2. Airbnb is creating a $10 million Superhost Relief Fund

"This is designed for Superhosts who rent out their own home and need help paying their rent or mortgage, plus long-tenured Experience hosts trying to make ends meet. Starting in April, hosts can apply for grants for up to $5,000 that don't need to be paid back."

According to Chesky, Airbnb staff and founders have themselves donated US$10 million to help Superhosts and long-tenure Airbnb Experience providers who are struggling.

The criteria you need to meet to apply for this relief fund are:

  1. Only share their primary or secondary residence (no more than 2 active listings).

  2. Show a reliance on Airbnb as a vital source of income.

  3. Have a verified host identity.

  4. Have been a Superhost or Experience host for at least 1 year.

  5. Have lost a significant percentage of earnings due to COVID-19.

The content gets a little murky from here. The terms and conditions say a specialised team at Airbnb will invite hosts who are most in need to apply. We can assume that it means Airbnb will proactively contact you if they think you fit the criteria. This same team will also evaluate the applications on a weekly basis and get in touch with hosts whose applications have been approved. The details mention that the relief grant per host is up to US$5000, but does not clarify what the minimum payment could start from.

There is no further information on if this relates to co-hosted or managed properties. Most management companies will host properties under the same account as the owner and share co-host roles together. There is a large possibility that these hosts who use management companies may not be eligible for this grant.

3. Airbnb is making it easy for previous guests to send financial support directly to you

"We are creating a way for guests to send a note along with a contribution to any of the hosts who they’ve previously stayed with."

While it is clearly intended to be a donations feature, there is no further information on this or how it will operate, except that they expect it to go live in April.

It's clear Airbnb wants to regain the trust of their partners, which they realise is imperative to their survival as a business. However, while seemingly generous at first glance, this support plan seems like it will only help some hosts. This, on top of the fact that they've acted later than they should might not have the positive impact they are hoping for.

Over the last 2-3 years, Airbnb has been notorious for poor host service. If you haven’t experienced it yourselves, there are countless SubReddits on the issues, and a Trust Pilot score that is the worst in their industry. It is possible that this passionate plea to help partners will fall on deaf ears, although I do hope those truly struggling from this crisis are given ample support from Airbnb.