SAN FRANCISCO • United States home rental firm Airbnb is allocating US$250 million (S$356 million) to help offset losses by hosts around the world whose guests have cancelled bookings in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
The aid, which will pay hosts 25 per cent of their normal cancellation fees, is being offered globally except for China, the company said on Monday in a letter sent to hosts by chief executive Brian Chesky.
The payments apply to the cancellation of reservations with check-in dates between March 14 and May 31. Because hosts can choose different cancellation policies – some require a penalty payment, others allow free cancellation up to a certain date before check-in – not all cancelled reservations will qualify.
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, which angered many hosts. It also said hosts could cancel reservations without a charge.
Airbnb said it is funding the programme for hosts itself and will begin to issue the payments this month.
The home rental firm’s revenue last year exceeded US$4.8 billion, up 35 per cent on the year, and it has US$3 billion in cash, a source told Reuters last week.
The company said last September that it planned to list its shares this year, and so far has not changed that position.
Airbnb added that it is creating a US$10 million relief fund for its Superhosts – those who meet certain requirements including good ratings – who rent out their own homes and need help paying their rent or mortgage, and some Experience hosts who charge for sharing an experience like food tours.
Hosts can apply for grants of up to US$5,000. That fund started with Airbnb employee donations of US$1 million and the company’s three founders are personally contributing the rest, it said.
Airbnb also said it had worked to secure support for hosts in the recent US stimulus Bill that will allow some hosts to benefit from small-business grants, loans and unemployment assistance.
In a video message to hosts on Monday, Mr Chesky said he was confident Airbnb would come back strong after the coronavirus pandemic was over. He added that about half of the stays booked on Airbnb were for periods longer than a month.