US: In a letter sent to Vrbo users, CEO Jeff Hurst has unveiled the first update to the company’s COVID-19 cancellation policy.
The group has previously been alerting users that the situation was not severe enough to mandate full refunds.
Vrbo now offers two options for a return of funds due to the virus. The first choice, which is the default, is that any cancellations can be made for full value credit on the platform, with flexible stay dates, for a rebooking later in time.
For those seeking a return of funds, Vrbo mandates that hosts provide a 50 per cent refund on their booking. It hopes to reward flexible hosts at some time in the future, but the letter has not clarified how.
Hurst said: “We realise the new policy we are implementing may not be perfect, but in this unprecedented time we believe it strikes the best balance of protecting travellers, partners and the public.”
He also encouraged host with questions to contact the company and promised to add updates to the policy every 48 hours.
The company has also committed to waiving cancellation penalties going forward and refunding 100 per cent of its own service fee. Stays booked after 13 March between then and 30 April will automatically receive a refund.
Hurst added: “We have been in contact with thousands of our partners in the past days and I am humbled by your willingness to rise to the occasion, and appreciative of your sacrifices. The skies will clear and families will want to travel again.”
Some people, however, are struggling with the policy. Users have complained of the lack of full monetary refund, and others have run into trouble with individual hosts, some of whom have encouraged renters to make their bookings.
According to Buzzfeed News, the company’s Facebook page is full of stories about hosts minimizing the virus’ severity. One said : “We were told by the owners of the property — ‘it ain’t nothing but a little cold and some good clean mountain air will do you well.'”
Vrbo is remaining firm on its stance on safety, committing to ban those users who downplay the severity of the virus threat.
Meanwhile, Airbnb has this week committed to full refunds, attempting to manage their user community.
For more information, visit the Vrbo website here.