Airbnb slammed for encouraging customers to donate cash to hosts

Airbnb has been heavily criticised for asking customers if they would like to donate money to hosts who have lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The company, which has more than £2bn in reserves, sent an email to previous users of the site that read: “Like all of us, hosts on Airbnb are impacted by COVID-19, and many of them are unable to welcome guests. Now more than ever, it’s important to reach out and support one another – even in small ways. Today, we’re introducing a new way to connect with your favourite hosts.

“Now you can create personalised kindness cards that make it easy to send a message of appreciation or encouragement, with the option to add a contribution. We hope these cards will make hosts smile, and bring a little joy your way.”

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Social media users have questioned why the holiday home hosting platform would ask customers to take responsibility for hosts’ lost income at a time when many people are struggling with job losses themselves as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic.

Labour councillor Caragh Skipper wrote on Twitter: “Daily reminder that there is a housing crisis and @Airbnb are out here acting like landlords are charities.”

Another user wrote: “Airbnb has lost its f**king head. Why would I donate to my host? I can’t even afford one house.”

Hosts have also complained that the company introduced cancellation policies at the outset of the Covid-19 outbreak that cost them even more money.

In March, the company agreed to spend $250m (£200m) to reimburse hosts for cancellation costs resulting from the coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Airbnb told The Independent: “We’ve heard from many guests that want to support hosts during this difficult time and our new e-cards allow them to share messages of support with hosts that may have welcomed them into their home.

“There is also the option for a voluntary financial contribution, with no charges from Airbnb, that goes directly to the hosts, more than half of whom say they rely on the additional income from hosting to afford their home.”

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