Airbnb blocks bookings over ‘Covid-19 retreats’ controversy

Airbnb has blocked private room bookings and switching off its ‘instant book’ function for whole properties following reports of hosts offering Covid-19 retreats.

A report by the BBC found that some hosts were still offering their homes to the public, despite new laws which state that holiday homes must only be offered to key workers needing to self-isolate amid the coronavirus outbreak.

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Airbnb said it wants hosts and guests to follow the rules and has “no tolerance” for listings that ignore health or travel advisories.

Airbnb added that the government has set out “clear guidance” on the limited conditions under which necessary travel is permitted, and said the steps it has taken will “support these measures”.

An Airbnb spokesperson said: “Hosts in the UK are also opening their homes to NHS and other healthcare providers as part of a global initiative that has seen more than 100,000 places to stay made available so far.”

Tourism minister, Nigel Huddleston, said in a tweet: “A reminder that essential travel does not include holidays, leisure travel and visits to second homes – and people must remain in their primary residence It is irresponsible & dangerous for some property owners to be marketing themselves as ‘isolation retreats’.”

It comes after Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky revealed plans to pay as much as £200m to hosts with homes listed on its platform to help cover the costs of Covid-19 related cancellations.

According to the Guardian, it came after an outcry from Airbnb hosts over a cancellation policy which allows guests to claim a full refund if they cancel their booking before 31 May.

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