By Jane Lanhee Lee
(Reuters) – U.S. home rental firm Airbnb said on Monday it was allocating $250 million to help offset losses by hosts around the world whose guests have canceled bookings in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
The aid, which will pay hosts 25% of their normal cancellation fees, is being offered globally except for China, the company said in a letter sent to hosts by Chief Executive Brian Chesky.
The payments apply to the cancellation of reservations with check-in dates between March 14 and May 31. Because hosts can choose different cancellation policies – some requiring a penalty payment, with others allowing free cancellation up to a certain date before check-in – not all canceled reservations will qualify.
Airbnb had earlier announced that guests would receive a full refund for the cancellation of reservations made on or before March 14 for check-in between March 14 and April 14, which angered many hosts. Airbnb also said that hosts could cancel reservations without a charge.
Airbnb said it is funding the program for hosts itself and will begin to issue the payments in April.
Airbnb’s revenue in 2019 exceeded $4.8 billion, up 35% on the year, and it has $3 billion in cash, a source told Reuters last week.
The company said in September that it planned to list its shares in 2020, and so far has not changed that position.
Airbnb also said it is creating a $10 million relief fund for its Superhosts – so-named for meeting certain requirements including good ratings – who rent out their own home and need help paying their rent or mortgage, and some Experience hosts who charge for sharing an experience like food tours.
Hosts can apply for grants for up to $5,000. That fund started with Airbnb employee donations of $1 million and the company’s three founders are personally contributing the rest, it said.
Airbnb also said it worked to secure support for hosts in the recent U.S. stimulus bill that will allow some hosts to benefit from small-business grants, loans and unemployment assistance.
In a video message to hosts on Monday, Chesky said he was confident Airbnb would come back strong after the coronavirus pandemic was over. He added that about half of the stays booked on Airbnb were for periods longer than a month.
(Reporting by Jane Lanhee Lee; Editing by Greg Mitchell, Leslie Adler and Rosalba O’Brien)