SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — An attempt by Airbnb to assuage the financial concerns of its property owners, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the travel industry, is backfiring on social media as renters balk at the suggestion of helping out their hosts.
The San Francisco-based short-term rental firm has rolled out a tool that allows guests to send former hosts “kindness cards” that can include cash donations to the property owners.
“To show appreciation or encouragement, eligible guests can send personalized kindness cards to hosts they’ve given four or five-star ratings, with the option to add a financial contribution,” reads an Airbnb help center article. “Airbnb will charge no fee, and 100% of your contribution goes directly to the host.”
The gesture is falling flat with Airbnb customers on Twitter, who are questioning why it should fall on them to prop up struggling property owners, many who are “megahosts” who own dozens of properties bought with the purpose of listing them as short-term rentals.
I received an email solicitation from @Airbnb to directly donate to past #airbnb hosts. This is nuts. C-19 is tough on everyone, but I can't imagine anyone with free money to give out of kindness for past business transactions, however nice they were. Shaking down customers?!? pic.twitter.com/o3lakWIZdN
— Natalie (@CardboardNirvan) July 15, 2020
Perhaps if I had personal knowledge that a host had a single unit, or guest room, and that was the extent of their hosting on the site. But as is well known, a large portion of units advertised on AirBnb are held by speculators and high-volume hosts; these leeches need no help.
— Tintin Quarantino 🏳️🌈 (@MarkPritchard) July 15, 2020
Amid the pandemic’s grip on the travel industry, Airbnb axed a quarter of its workforce in May and refocused its efforts on rentals and experiences. While the company reported a surge in U.S. bookings last month, a number of hosts struggled to make mortgage payments and pay bills due to coronavirus-related cancellations, with many selling their properties because of the steep decline in bookings.
Airbnb has also grappled with appeasing frustrated customers with refunds after implementing cancellation policies at the start of the pandemic that caused confusion with both renters and hosts. In March, Airbnb announced it would spend $250 million to reimburse hosts for guests’ cancellations because of coronavirus shutdowns.