You will no longer get a refund if you cancel your Airbnb reservation due to COVID-19 after the end of this month, which happens to coincide with the launch of the company’s forthcoming "guest travel insurance product."
We seem to be at another of those points where public officials are eager to declare the pandemic is over, while simultaneously, case counts are totally on the rise again. This makes decision-making difficult for regular folk whose primary concern is public safety, despite that business leaders and many government officials are extremely eager to force everything back to normal. Today’s example of this comes from vacation lodging platform Airbnb, whom the Chronicle reports is ending their COVID-19 cancellation refund policy, effective Tuesday, May 31.
“Beginning 31 May, we are updating our Extenuating Circumstances policy to no longer cover COVID-19 related circumstances as a reason for a refund for bookings made on or after this date,” Airbnb said in a company blog post. “That includes cases where a guest or Host is sick with COVID-19. Instead, the Host’s cancellation policy will apply as usual to these bookings. Reservations made before 31 May may still be eligible for a refund if they qualify under our policy.”
To their credit, Airbnb was exceptionally lenient in this regard throughout the pandemic. “Some in the travel industry stopped this type of policy months ago, while others didn’t provide one at all,” their blog post adds. “After consultation with our medical advisors, as well as our community, we feel the time is now right to take the same step.”
Yet lo and behold, the end of this policy is somewhat coinciding with the launch of a new "guest travel insurance product." Airbnb actually announced the insurance option in January, though in their most recent blog post that "in the coming months, we also expect to launch our custom-built guest travel insurance product offering." So the end of the refund policy and the launch of the insurance product do not synch up entirely, but you can’t help but notice that the free feature is being replaced by a paid feature.
And this may stand to reason. Just six months ago, Airbnb announced their most gangbusters revenue quarter ever. But their then-gaudy $206 stock price has since come back down to earth. With their first quarter of 2022 earnings call tomorrow, which covers the Omicron outbreak phase, Zacks Equity Research notes that analysts are predicting something of a revenue tumble.
“The emergence of new variants has likely led to an increase in booking cancellations in the first quarter," Zacks noted. So maybe you can connect the dots on why Airbnb is tightening up that cancellation policy.
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