China: While concerns about the coronavirus spread through China, Airbnb has quietly decided to remain operating.
The company’s rentals are still available in the city of Wuhan, the cradle of the coronavirus.
Official policy from the company is to allow individual hosts to determine whether or not to accept bookings. They are, however, offering a unique cancellation policy to affected guests allowing them to cancel without fees.
An Airbnb spokesperson told the South China Morning Post: “We have activated our extenuating circumstances policy to offer impacted hosts and guests the option of a cancellation of their reservations without charges. We will be continuously evaluating and updating this policy.”
UPDATE: According to PanDaily, Airbnb China is setting up a 70 million yuan fund to help restore confidence in the brand.
Beyond Airbnb, the spectre of coronavirus is haunting the travel industry at large. China has extended internal travel restrictions to nine total cities, as the disease has spread outside its borders.
According to the Financial Times, major leisure destinations inside Chinese borders have already been affected. Macanese casinos, which rely on Chinese tourists, have already reported a fall in attendance and Disneyland Shanghai and Hong Kong have both announced closures and refunds.
Major hotel collections, Hilton, Marriott and International Hotel Groups, have announced free cancellations until the eighth of February, similar to Airbnb. Cruise companies Royal Carribean and Carnival have taken a more reactionary stance, refusing to allow passengers from Wuhan on board.
Airbnb is hoping to help affected travellers find new accommodation, telling hosts to remain supportive of changes in plans. A reporter for Bloomberg News has gone through the booking process from afar, discovering that bookings are still open and that there is no warning message on the website.
This is after recent news that the World Health Organisation has declared the coronavirus situation a global health emergency. The US, UK and other countries worldwide have announced travel procedures to curtail the spread.
China’s travel industry is no stranger to upheaval. Read our story about the effect Hong Kong protests have had on the short-term rental industry for more info.