Airbnb unveils Summer of Responsible Travel plan

US: Airbnb has unveiled its Summer of Responsible Travel plan for post-pandemic stays as the company prepares for the projected international increase in short-term rentals of hosted homes.

As vaccines for Covid-19 roll out and summer travel approaches, Airbnb has released their its own ‘Summer of Responsible Travel’ initiative to ensure both hosts and guests maintain their health and safety consciousness after the pandemic.

The eight-point plan includes tools for travellers and hosts to stay healthy, systems to report policy violations, and expanded support for all users. Now, hosts will be able to enforce new rules to ban parties, prevent events that disrupt the nearby community, and there is more than a 50 per cent increase in Community Support staff for 24/7 availability.

Airbnb is announcing the plan in advance of the Fourth of July celebrations, touted by some as a potential return date for large gatherings, which could lead to a further surge in infections. With that in mind, the home-sharing platform is imposing a ban on single night or last-minute stays, especially for guests who have not received positive reviews previously from Airbnb hosts, due to the fear of Covid-spreading parties.

The restrictions are akin to those imposed during a trial period over the Halloween season last year, in response to a fatal shooting incident in Orinda, near San Francisco, 12 months prior. However, this time around, one-night reservations that have already been booked have not yet been cancelled by the company.

Airbnb has already placed a cap on the number of people who can gather in its listed properties at the same time at 16, in a bid to enhance a reputation that was tarnished by the holding of some large-scale parties during the height of the pandemic. It comes four months after Airbnb went public via its bumper IPO back in December.

Here is a summary of Airbnb’s Summer of Responsible Travel plan:

  • Fourth of July: Guests without a history of positive reviews on Airbnb will be prohibited from making one-night reservations in entire home listings in the United States during the Fourth of July weekend. Notable exceptions to the policy for Fourth of July rentals will allow those who have booked before 13 April or have a history of positive reviews to book one-night reservations for the holiday.
  • Noise detection devices will be helping to facilitate discounts for noise detection devices from Minut to help with identifying parties and getting ahead of issues, while respecting the privacy of guests. Airbnb’s new policy will allow for various discounts on Minut’s noise detection products, and hosts will have to disclose the use of such devices in listings.
  • Neighbourhood support: A 24/7 US hotline is being set up to make it possible for neighbours to flag issues, such as parties, to trained agents in real-time. Airbnb’s Neighborhood Support Line will continue to exist as the frontline for communities and neighbours to seek assistance with Airbnb hosts and guests.
  • Health Safety Practices: All hosts and guests will be required to commit to Covid-19 precautions, which include wearing a mask, practising social distancing, and for hosts and their teams, abiding by its five-step enhanced cleaning procedures.
  • Enhanced Community Support: Frontline Community Support staff will be increased by more than 50 per cent to ensure the best possible service for the host and guest community as travel demand surges.
  • Amplifying House Rules: Hosts will be able to take measures to prohibit parties and events in their own listing house rules, such as quiet hours, occupancy limits, and rules on pets and smoking.
  • Pool safety: Airbnb says it will be communicating with its US host community to make them aware of pool safety tips, including guidance about pool fences.
  • Fire safety: Guidance will be offered to Airbnb’s West Coast hosts and guests to help them prepare their guests to take necessary precautions.

An Airbnb representative said in a statement: “This plan adds to an extensive list of programs built to prioritise the health and safety of our community during the ongoing pandemic, ranging from the Enhanced Cleaning initiative, Health and Safety mandate, a forthcoming health and safety attestation, bans on parties and gatherings, crackdowns on party houses, updates to our standards and enforcement, as well as a series of policies and tools to support hosts and guests with flexibility, bookings and refunds during this challenging period.”