Airbnb Continues to Cope with Pandemic Challenges

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As COVID uncertainty continues to reign, Airbnb is hoping to bring some peace of mind to would-be travelers with two new initiatives.

As COVID uncertainty continues to reign, Airbnb is hoping to bring some peace of mind to would-be travelers with two new initiatives.  

The peer-to-peer vacation company announced it will launch a travel insurance product this spring that will enable guests to book their travel with the assurance that they can receive some recompense if plans change. Secondarily, the company is committing $20 million to a COVID relief program that will enable guests whose trips are disrupted by travel policy changes – and whose bookings do not include full cancellations – to receive a 50% travel voucher refund.  

“Over the past month, we’ve seen the stress and challenges spurred by Omicron, and we’ve stayed close to our community, which includes both hosts and guests,” according to a company statement. “As a two-sided platform, it is important to recognize that the Omicron spike has greatly impacted our hosts, and we know many lost out on income as well as the opportunity to market their listing over the holiday season following last-minute cancellations.”

While the travel insurance product won’t launch until the spring, the COVID relief program is effective immediately and retroactively for bookings made before December 1, 2021, that have been (or will be) affected by border closures, government mandates, and some other pandemic-related restrictions that were not in effect at the time of booking. 

Recovery for the travel industry has been slow as new viral variants cause continued outbreak spikes. When the pandemic was first declared in March 2020, Airbnb activated a global “extenuating circumstances policy” that enabled guests who booked travel before the pandemic to receive refunds. The company is continuing to allow guests who contract COVID to cancel their bookings for a full refund, even if it is outside the host’s cancelation policy. 

Meanwhile, the company remains undeterred in adapting to the new travel realities, which may include longer stays and remote work. Recently, Airbnb announced it was looking for someone to live rent-free and host guests in a restored Sicilian home for a year. In a separate initiative, Airbnb cofounder and CEO Brian Chesky announced he would work remotely from Airbnb locations for two-week spans over the next year. 

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