US: Airbnb has been the subject of ridicule on social media after sending out emails to previous guests on its system asking them to consider sending donations, or “kindness cards”, to hosts who have had their income streams wiped out by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The emails read: “”Like all of us, hosts on Airbnb are impacted by Covid-19 and many of them are unable to welcome guests. Now more than ever, it’s important to reach out and support one another – even in small ways.
“Today we’re introducing a new way to connect with your favourite hosts. Now you can create personalised kindness cards that make it easy to send a message of appreciation or encouragement, with the option to send a contribution.
“We hope these cards will make hosts smile, and bring a little joy your way,” it added.
Some guests took to social media to vent their anger at the platform over claims it has reduced housing supply and grown rental property prices in major cities where Airbnb operates at scale. In the early stages of the pandemic, the platform also received criticism over its initial refund policies before agreeing to pay guests back in full who had seen their bookings cancelled, while others have complained they have received little or no financial support from a $250 million relief fund set up by Airbnb.
One Twitter account wrote: “The absolute nerve of Airbnb asking customers to send ‘kindness cards’ to hosts as if Airbnb wasn’t a prime reason that the rental markets in major cities are a shambles.”
Another used tweeted: “Airbnb has completely distorted local housing markets, consistently flaunted laws for their own profit, made cities unaffordable, but don’t worry, now offering ‘kindness cards’ to donate money to megahost landlords to support their investment,” wrote another user.
“Airbnb has lost its f****** head. Why would I donate to my host? I can’t even afford one house”, read another tweet, which garnered more than 7,000 retweets and 55,000 likes.
In response, an Airbnb spokesperson told The Telegraph: “We’ve heard from many guests that want to support hosts during this difficult time and our new e-cards allow them to share messages of support with hosts that may have welcomed them into their home. There is also the option for a voluntary financial contribution, with no charges from Airbnb, that goes directly to the hosts, more than half of whom say they rely on the additional income from hosting to afford their home.”