Airbnb Hosts Struggle With Loss of Reservations, Income Due to Pandemic

Airbnb allowed customers to receive a full cash refund and created a $250 million fund to reimburse hosts for part of their losses.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Thousands of Airbnb hosts around Southern California are still without any income or new reservations, nearly two months after the travel industry was essentially shut down.

Guests canceled bookings overnight as the pandemic started, leaving hosts unable to pay bills.

“It was booming," said Airbnb host Kate Shaw about business before Covid-19.  "And this was supposed to be the time of year you’d see 100% occupancy."

Shaw owns multiple properties in Joshua Tree and Long Beach that she rents out on Airbnb. She says she’s exclusively made her income from the rentals since 2018.

"It was literally overnight, I can’t even begin to describe," Shaw said. "The morning of March 10, all of a sudden – it actually hit in Long Beach first, because conventions started to be canceled and events started to be canceled, and so people were canceling."

Airbnb allowed customers to receive a full cash refund as part of its Extenuating Circumstances Policy. 

The company also created a $250 million fund to reimburse hosts for some of their losses.

In a statement provided to the NBC4 I-Team, Airbnb said, "For eligible accommodations reservations, we’ll pay 25% of what hosts would’ve received for a normal guest cancellation…"

Shaw said that’s what she received.

"Unfortunately, our mortgage lenders, our utilities, all of the furniture that we’ve purchased – all of a sudden those debts don’t go down to 25%,” Shaw said.

This month, Airbnb said, it will begin new cleaning protocols for all hosts, including instructions for wearing gloves and masks and cleaning with specific disinfectants. The company will also institute a 24-hour waiting period in between reservations.

The vacation rental booking company's CEO, Brian Chesky, announced that the company is planning to lay off as many as 1,900 employees, or about 25% of the company, CNBC reported on Tuesday.

“We are collectively living through the most harrowing crisis of our lifetime, and as it began to unfold, global travel came to a standstill,” Chesky told employees in a note. “Airbnb’s business has been hit hard, with revenue this year forecasted to be less than half of what we earned in 2019.”

As for the future, host Kate Shaw remains cautiously optimistic.

"As a host, I’m really lucky that I have a diverse portfolio of locations.  I don’t think that my Long Beach business is going to recover probably until 2021 because that business is really based on conventions," she said.

"I actually do anticipate – maybe that’s being a bit optimistic – but I do anticipate that our summer is going to be a lot busier than it would have been otherwise, just because people are experiencing quarantine fatigue, they’re looking for safe, local ways to travel."

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