Last year's SXSW [Credit: Adi Robertson]

Guests seeking refunds for COVID-19 cancellations

Worldwide: South by Southwest [SXSW] and Coachella, two large-scale entertainment events in the United States, are among those to have announced delays due to COVID-19.

As a result, many guests who have booked for these events are searching for refunds, to mixed results.

While Airbnb has modified its cancellation policy to add a new category for the coronavirus, its limits have confused users. SXSW cancellations have apparently fallen outside of the new extenuating circumstances policy and guests seeking refunds have been denied.

Airbnb guest Tommy Mariani told CNN: “They’re taking roughly $1,300 of mine, and the only money I was going to be receiving back is $124. In order for me to get a full refund, they said that the actual state of Texas has to file a state of emergency.”

The group has begun to issue refunds, however, for Coachella, due to Riverside County’s declaration of a health emergency.

Vrbo, on the other hand, is yet to lay out any virus-related cancellation policy. Its website states that users should review refund policies with individual hosts, while the company watches the disease’s development.

Hosts are also concerned for revenues going forward, not just due to cancellations, but because of decreased demand. According to The New York Times, a pair of hosts in Tokyo have seen their occupancy rate fall from 80 per cent to zero since January.

Kate Kniejski, an Austin Airbnb host, told NPR Austin: “Because we operate year-round, it’s not catastrophic, but March is our best month of the year, of course, because of SXSW. Our little Airbnb business helps supplement my parents’ retirement and helps my husband and I to keep up with rising property taxes in East Austin.”

Events across the globe are being cancelled due to COVID-19, most recently the video game world’s largest conference, E3.

However, the industry is attempting to soften the blow the virus is causing. Both OYO and Airbnb have created significant funds for their Asian partners to support losses during the business lull.

In a statement on its website yesterday, Airbnb said: “We know that COVID-19 will have an impact on this in the near-term, but we also know that travel is resilient and will rebound, and when it does so, we believe our people powered community will enable more people-to-people connections than ever before.”

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