Airbnb: Helping or Worsening the Spread of COVID-19?

Airbnb: Helping or Worsening the Spread of COVID-19?

Jaclyn Krizanic

August 26, 2020

Quarantine, however helpful in the slowing down of COVID-19, has people itching to leave their homes more than ever. With everything that has happened since the announcement of the virus in March, it has been almost six months since life has been normal. Even with travel bans to other countries, people have taken opportunities to travel and visit different states within America. Hotels are open in specific areas, but Airbnb has still managed to keep their business afloat during all of these shut downs. 

Airbnb is a website with an app counterpart that allows users to vacation at their favorite locations with comforts like staying in their own home. Renting, or overnight stays, are ways to determine the capacity of the renters homes they are letting people vacation in. The popularity in leaving hometowns and getting a change of scenery has been on the bucket list of many during this time. However, what is Airbnb doing for their home owners and travelers to protect their safety and lessen the spread of the virus? Well, they have set out particular regulations which continue to be updated through different phases and cases in the designated travel area. 

The company added a ‘coronavirus update’ tab on their website to help inform renters and travelers about ways they can stay safe or how to cancel if they have gotten sick. Airbnb  announced they have instructed ways to cancel trips easily for renters. On the site it says: “Guests who can’t travel due to COVID-19 with reservations booked on or before March 14, 2020 may be eligible for cancellations without charges. Learn more about our extenuating circumstances policy.” In their extenuating circumstances policy, they are allowing trips booked between the dates of March 14, 2020 and September 30, 2020 to be covered. Bookers are eligible for refunds and hosts are able to cancel without charge or impact to their status of being a host. The coronavirus update tab has 34 articles and four videos that help explain different ways for travelers to occupy their spaces and rules for traveling there as well as information for hosts. Yet, there has been some upset with the actions of people during this time and Airbnb received  bad press coverage when an Airbnb house in New Jersey hosted a party with over 700 people.

This comes at no surprise considering the irresponsible behavior that has taken place during the past few months. However, it has become upsetting for home owners in the areas of places which allow for Airbnb rentals. In New Jersey there was a party that was shut down with over 700 guests in attendance. Airbnb announced they were not going to disclose the address “out of the respect and privacy of the hosts and homeowners”. When thinking about this situation, there have been times where people have lied to hosts about how many people will be occupying spaces. This has been done previously with spring break trips where college students have said only a few people will attend and over 40 people have crashed in the rental. However, there is no excuse for either situation, especially during a global pandemic happening right now. The company also put out a statement saying, “Stopping large gatherings is more important than ever in this current environment.” 

Since December, Airbnb has put out a notice to cancel and shut down parties and have also been more strict in allowing people under the age of 25 to rent out an entire house. 

“We ban party houses and will not tolerate irresponsible behavior on our platform,” Airbnb executive Chris Lehane said in a statement. “We know that there is still more work to be done, we ask that neighbors contact us as soon as possible through our Neighborhood Support Hotline, to directly communicate any concerns, which will help us continue to effectively enforce our party house ban.” 

Interestingly enough, this statement came out the same week the governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, posted tweets about house parties happening throughout the state that  have been linked to spreads of COVID-19.

Since the outbreak of parties in New Jersey, Governor Murphy has updated guidelines in  which no more than 100 people are able to gather for activities or it must be at 25 percent capacity. With states that have the health of their communities in jeopardy, hopefully this will be a wake up call for many. 

Mentally preparing for what the future holds seems almost impossible at this point. Yet, it is important to understand the responsibility each of us holds at this time. Living our life in a new normal way is an adjustment, but if done right this will not be our forever. Take care of yourself and remember one choice could impact the world. 

Jaclyn Krizanic is a senior studying Professional Writing and minoring in Graphic Design. Jaclyn plans to apply her knowledge and skill sets she has gained from her major into her current, future and professional work. Jaclyn loves to write poetry and inspires to publish a book of poems and short stories upon her graduation.