One year ago, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic and soon after, the UK entered its first national lockdown. A year filled with challenges followed but there were also moments where it was safe for us to come together and travel again too, providing a vital mental and economic respite for communities from the monotony of lockdown.
Reflecting on the past 12 months, here are the steps we took to support our community of Hosts and guests:
- Offering free cancellations: We offered guests with bookings made before the WHO declared a global pandemic a full refund through our Extenuating Circumstances policy and launched our flexible cancellation policy search filter, meaning guests can refine their search to listings that offer free cancellation until 24 hours or 5 days before check-in, avoiding any strict cancellation policy listings from their search results entirely. Currently, almost two thirds of active listings offer a flexible or moderate cancellation policy.
- Restricting bookings for essential stays: We were the only online accommodation booking platform to restrict bookings to key workers and other essential stays in line with government guidance. We also worked closely with Government authorities to regularly share advisories with both the Host and guest community to keep everybody informed of the latest rules.
- Hosts supporting heroic NHS staff: The Host community stepped forward to offer NHS and other frontline medical staff free places to stay as they carried out their critical work, with Airbnb waiving all fees for the stays. Each night spent at a Host’s listing is a night without the worry about traveling far for work after long hours or potentially putting family and loved ones at home at risk. Between March and July, more than 1,200 free stays were provided for frontline medical staff, amounting to more than 13,000 nights.
- Hosts supporting frontline medical staff around the world: The generosity of the UK Host community was matched by their counterparts from all around the world who similarly stepped forward to support frontline medical staff. In total, more than 225,000 places to stay were offered, helping accommodate tens of thousands of health care professionals, relief workers, and first responders, resulting in more than 246,000 nights booked.
- Setting new best practices in cleaning: We launched Airbnb’s Enhanced Cleaning Protocol—the first overarching standardised guidelines for cleaning and sanitation in the home sharing industry— to support hosts and authorities in advance of the reopening of touristic travel in the UK. We have also partnered with RB, the makers of Dettol, to give Hosts the opportunity to purchase discounted Dettol product bundles directly from their Host Dashboard.
- Tackling nuisance issues: We removed or suspended more than 800 listings in the UK following a crackdown on so-called ‘party houses’. The number includes listings that have received complaints or violated policies on parties and unauthorised events, which are explicitly banned on Airbnb.
- An economic lifeline to communities: During summer last year, Hosts in the UK earned more than £225 million, providing a vital economic lifeline to Hosts that were closed for much of the year and a much needed boost to local hospitality businesses.
The world today is different than it was one year ago but staying at an Airbnb listing remains one of the best ways to experience belonging with family and friends. As we look ahead to the easing of lockdown travel restrictions, we hope that Hosts can open their doors to welcome visitors again very soon.