Today we’re announcing two new ways Airbnb will support our guest community as they navigate unexpected impacts of the recent surge in COVID cases throughout the world — an upcoming guest travel insurance product and the launch of Airbnb’s Guest COVID Support Program.
Since the WHO’s declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic in March 2020, we’ve continued to prioritize public health. Our guiding principle has been that people should not travel or host if they are sick with this virus.
In this context, we announced the global activation of our Extenuating Circumstances policy in March 2020 enabling guests who booked before the pandemic to get refunds, making Airbnb the first short-term rental platform to implement such a consumer-friendly approach to COVID cancellations. And Airbnb continues to allow guests who contract COVID to cancel for a full refund even if it’s outside of the Host’s cancellation policy. This is something none of our peer short-term rental companies have done.
But 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. 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. For this reason, we are grateful that our Host community as a whole has sought to offer guests greater flexibility — with almost two thirds of active listings now offering moderate or flexible cancellation policies. And many even went above and beyond their cancellation policies to support guests over the course of this unprecedented Omicron wave that hit over the holiday travel season.
Travelers have been hit hard, particularly with sudden travel restrictions and border shutdowns. We also know that many travelers who may be wary of crowded hotel lobbies during this Omicron spike are increasingly viewing short-term rentals booked through a trusted platform like Airbnb as a safer travel option for family and friends — particularly as Airbnb Hosts remain committed to Airbnb’s COVID safety and cleaning practices.
We understand that our guests are also trying to navigate in a really dynamic environment, so we’ll be stepping up our support for guests in the following ways:
Airbnb Guest Travel Insurance
We will launch a custom-built guest travel insurance product offering exclusive to Airbnb guests. The same team that brought our AirCover Host protection product to life is building our new guest insurance product in partnership with a reputable insurance carrier. We plan to launch this new product in Spring 2022.
Until this new product is available, we urge guests to purchase travel insurance outside of Airbnb, or to utilize the functionality of our free cancellation search filter to find listings that have more flexibility.
Airbnb Guest COVID Support Program
While we work towards the travel insurance launch, we are introducing our new Guest COVID Support Program to provide relief to guests no longer able to proceed with their previously booked reservations due to unexpected travel disruptions caused by government mandates — such as border closures or mandatory extended quarantine requirements.
For guests in these situations who are unable to obtain full refunds under their Hosts’ cancellation policies, Airbnb will provide relief in the form of a travel coupon for 50 percent of the cost of the unrefunded portion of the reservation. We are funding this program with $20 million initially to help defray these financial impacts to our guests and ensure guests know that we are listening to their concerns.
This program is effective immediately, and applies retroactively to reservations that (1) have a check-in date on or after December 1, 2021 and (2) had to be cancelled by the guest due to border closures, government mandates and certain other Omicron-related travel restrictions not in effect at the time of booking. If guests had reservations for stays with check-in dates on or after December 1, and they had to cancel in advance of check-in due to unexpected travel disruptions caused by government mandates, they are eligible for relief under this program.
For example, if a traveler in October booked a stay in Israel with a check-in date for late December — and Israel’s restrictions on outside travel were announced after the date of booking but before the date of check-in — this program would retroactively apply. However, if a traveler books a stay in Israel today while the same travel restrictions are already in place, the program would not apply.
Guests can find full program details here and should contact our 24/7 Community Support team if they believe their reservations meet the program criteria.
This program is meant to support guests who have encountered extreme and unexpected government-mandated travel disruptions due to Omicron and through no fault of their own. Other circumstances such as a guest testing positive for COVID just prior to a reservation will still be covered by Airbnb’s Extenuating Circumstances policy and therefore will not be eligible under this new program. Additionally, extreme travel disruptions such as earthquakes, wildfires, etc. that are not related to COVID are also covered under Airbnb’s Extenuating Circumstances policy.
Despite Omicron, this New Year’s Eve nearly 4.5 million guests in 53,000 places around the world put their faith in our Hosts and platform to deliver safe and meaningful experiences. This represented our biggest night since the start of the pandemic.
We will continue to emphasize responsible travel, including communicating updates about our forthcoming guest insurance product ahead of the Spring launch.
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