UK: Online travel agency Booking.com has made the decision to halt all rentals within the United Kingdom during the current lockdown period.
The decision comes after pressure from MPs, primarily Scottish National Party [SNP] Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who had been responsible for similar pressure campaigns on other OTAs.
Blackford, alongside Liberal Democrat MP Jamie Stone, levied criticism against the platform for continuing to rent properties, primarily in high risk areas such as the highlands. The two noted that allowing the rentals to continue would break the government’s strict lockdown procedures.
Blackford told The Herald: “It is astonishing that holiday rental companies continue to advertise and let out properties during this state of emergency. People are being told to stay at home and avoid any unnecessary travel.”
In response, Booking.com has committed to halting rentals made on the platform in the UK until at least the ninth of May. The company has offered either a full refund of pre-payments and deposits, or a voucher for a future stay at any property on the platform.
A statement on the company’s website reads: “In light of the UK Government extending the lockdown, we are in turn extending the measures we have in place on our site. As of midnight tonight, we will be limiting the availability of all accommodations on our site located in the UK, until May 9 in support of the Government’s efforts to have people stay at home and will be reviewing this date in line with their guidance.”
The company here is following the lead of Airbnb who committed to cancelling all UK rentals until the end of lockdown period.
Certain constituents are concerned, however, that the decision by Booking.com makes it difficult for essential workers to find safe accommodation. Blackford responded saying that channels were available for safe accommodation that did not require an OTA intermediary.
The action comes less than a week after Booking.com chief executive Glenn Fogel admitted in a Financial Times report that cost-cutting would likely be necessary across the company, including “probable” layoffs. Just prior to that, the firm received a reported $4 billion loan in bonds from investors to fend off the most severe effects caused by the coronavirus crisis.
Parent company Booking Holdings said at the time: “This pandemic has had an immense impact on many industries, especially the travel industry, which is under unprecedented pressure. We are not immune to this pressure, and as we work to manage costs aggressively, we are also looking at government subsidy efforts as they are being announced across regions.”
For more information, visit the Booking.com website here.