Airbnb blocks British bookings as company reels from deluge of cancellations

The move comes after the accommodation site was criticised for advertising properties as suitable for guests to use to self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic. The firm said it has stopped properties from receiving new bookings up to at least April 18.

We’ve heard from hosts who want to help others follow the rules and keep people safe during these unprecedented times

Patrick Robinson

Exceptions will be made for an initiative which offers free stays for NHS staff and paid or subsidised stays for other key workers exempt from the Government’s travel restrictions.

The company sent out emails to its global network of hosts outling the new booking restrictions today.

It follows a decision to block private room bookings and temporarily remove an option to instantly book whole properties.

Airbnb director of public policy Patrick Robinson said: “Hosts across the UK are playing a vital role in housing NHS and other medical staff as they continue their critical work.

“We’ve also heard from hosts who want to help others follow the rules and keep people safe during these unprecedented times.

“Restricting bookings on Airbnb to key workers and other essential stays will allow hosts to continue supporting front-line workers while following Government guidance.”

Airbnb’s business model has attracted investors who have bought new properties purely to offer as short-term lets and the deluge of coronavirus-linked cancellations jeopardised their ability to pay their mortgage, bills and property costs.

Some Airbnb hosts have been forced to leave their homes to make them available for long-term rentals, take emergency mortgage holdiays and raid savings.

The company said it announced it would give £200 million to hosts to help cover the costs of coronavirus-related cancellations.

It will pay hosts 25 percent of what they would typically get back through their individual cancellation policies.

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A spokesman said: “The new resources will support Airbnb’s ongoing work to invest over the long term in its community of hosts who share their homes and experiences.”

Earlier this week it emerged the site was listing properties advertised as places to self-isolate.

They included a house in Edinburgh described as being “the perfect place to isolate yourself from the coronavirus”.

UK tourism minister Nigel Huddleston branded said it was “incredibly irresponsible and dangerous for some property owners to be marketing themselves as isolation retreats.”

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