Read this if you plan to use Airbnb during the coronavirus outbreak

By Harrison Weber

The coronavirus outbreak is absolutely pummeling the travel industry. To blunt the edges for travelers and hosts alike, Airbnb announced a new policy today for “times of uncertainty.”

For would-be travelers wondering if they should book a stay (or cancel their plans entirely), Airbnb is now advertising “a suite of tools and programs” it’s calling “More Flexible Reservations.” The announcement appears more or less designed to keep the app and website from coming to a halt over COVID-19 as governments impose travel restrictions and “containment zones” on residents from Italy to New Rochelle, New York.

Airbnb said in a statement:

“When a crisis like Coronavirus hits, we know both hosts and guests are affected. Hosts lose earnings that they rely on to make ends meet. Guests are losing hard earned vacation savings. We strive to support both sides and are taking a series of actions.”

Translation: Airbnb is ready to absorb some of the blow, no matter how bad the timing may be. The company is offering new incentives, including waiving its 3% fee, for hosts who “offer refunds on cancellations that would have otherwise been subject to charges.” And for guests who may need to cancel a trip, Airbnb says it will refund its fees in the form of travel coupons “for guests who book a stay between now and June 1, 2020?—if the host doesn’t offer a refund on their own.

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