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Short-Term Rental Crisis Survival Center

Short-Term Rental Crisis Survival Center

Airbnb coronavirus

Last updated: March 27, 2020. This post is time-sensitive and will keep getting updated as the situation evolves.

This survival center will give you resources to help minimize the hit your business could take from the virus. While the focus in this resource is on your business, it does not lessen the importance of your health and the health of the public.

We urge you to pay close attention to the recommendations of the CDC and to take all possible means to protect yourself, your guests and to prevent spreading the disease.

We in no way recommend making false claims of safety and cleanliness in order to deceitfully attract more guests. Everything we recommend to do in this survival center is based on the premise that you are doing everything in your power to keep your listing safe and clean, and that you will not put your guests in a dangerous position.

General Coronavirus Information

In a very short time, the world has been rocked by the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. 

As of the writing this post, has already affected over 550,000 people, with nearly 26,000 deaths across at least 199 countries. The stock market saw its worst single-day loss since the 2008 financial crisis, and the US Treasury Yield hit its lowest percentage in American history. 

It’s hard to say whether the disease is worse than the hysteria surrounding it, but it’s easy to say that the entire world is feeling its effect. The fear is real, and it’s powerful.

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The drop in Chinese visitors to Los Angeles alone could cost the economy nearly 1 billion dollars. Entire countries are in government-imposed lockdowns and businesses across the globes are closing their doors.

The strain on the short-term rental industry and its operators has already been immense, and we’re now preparing for the worst. If you had goals to double or triple your income for 2020, you’re now probably trying to figure out just how to survive the next 6-12 months.

We’re all in this together, so we’ve created this resource to help short-term rental operators prepare and combat for the recession.

This resource will be updated on a regular basis as the situation evolves, so please bookmark it, share it, and keep coming back to see what our new recommendations are.

Airbnb Coronavirus Refund Policy

If a reservation that falls under the Extenuating Circumstances (EC) policy is cancelled:

  • The guest will receive a full refund (including any fees)
  • Hosts won’t incur any cancellation fees
  • Airbnb will refund all fees
  • Hosts can accept new reservations for those dates
  • Superhost status will not be affected

If the reservation does not fall under the EC policy, then the normal cancellation procedures apply. Guest refunds depend on your cancelation policy. Host penalties apply if the host cancels.

If you decide to refund guests that would be charged based on your cancelation policy, Airbnb rewards you based on their “More Flexible Reservations” program in two ways:  

They will boost your listing in the search results

You don't have to pay the 3% host fee on reservations until June 1st

On top of that, Airbnb now has a specific filter that guests can use to only see listings that have a flexible cancellation policy. 

Since ALL guests are worried about their travel right now, it's likely that most people are going to use this option.

Airbnb coronavirus flexible cancelation

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Airbnb coronavirus cancellations

Don't cancel any bookings yourself! If a guest requests a cancellation, send a message to Airbnb and/or ask your guests to do so. You may incur cancellation fees from Airbnb and have your SuperHost status penalized.

If you want to cancel because you're worried about exposure to the virus, message Airbnb to make sure the reservation falls under the extenuating circumstances policies.

If it doesn't, it's best NOT to cancel. Instead, provide a self-checkin option and have your home thouroughly cleaned post-stay. You can also ask your guests where they have traveled recently. Just because someone's from China doesn't mean they've been in infected areas.

Most hosts want to avoid spreading and catching the virus

An important concern hosts have is to protect themselves and any other guests from the virus.

Out of the 33% of respondents who said they are taking measures against the virus, the largest number of measures that hosts took were to prevent spreading the disease. 

In order to do this, so far hosts have done things like ramping up their cleaning levels between guests (58%), like wiping down anything else that guests touch: doorknobs, handles, and light switches. Other approaches are distributing hydro-alcoholic hand sanitizer (42%), canceling reservations by guests coming from infected areas (17%), and some even shutting down their rental until the outbreak is over (5%). If they hadn’t yet, even more (23%) said that they would cancel at-risk bookings within the next month. 

Measures to implement

In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus in your listing, some measures you can implement are:

  • Turn off Instant Book to vet incoming guests
  • Cancel any reservations by guests from infected areas

airbnb coronavirus

  • Take extra cleaning measures on your property between guests
  • WASH YOUR HANDS regularly – can’t be said enough
  • Stop shaking hands with people

Hosts want to protect their business from the impact of the virus

For most of us, the most serious impact is the one to our business.

The entire travel industry is having a meltdown, not only over fears but now over worldwide travel bans being set against infected countries. At the rate countries are getting infected, that means in a few day’s time, all borders may be closed.

Travelers are terrified of either catching the virus or getting quarantined if they go somewhere. Today, there are 18% more cancellations than during the same period last year (global average, from 9.7% in Jan-Feb 2019 to 11.5% in Jan-Feb 2020).

How can we cope?

Some things other hosts are doing is giving their guests more information about the outbreak (16%), investing in more marketing to reassure travelers (8%) (like this “escape the coronavirus” headline), lowering prices, and even switching to long-term rentals. Some are seeking ways to disprove false news that’s getting spread about case counts in their area, for example.

More measures to implement

In order to protect your short-term rental business from getting hit too hard by the coronavirus, here are some measures you can implement:

  • Find ways to cut costs
  • Downsizing
  • Add “coronavirus-free” to your listing titles or some other reassuring language
  • Explain your cleaning protocol at the top of your description and demonstrate that you’re taking this seriously

How to deal with coronavirus cancellations

Airbnb extended its extenuating circumstances policy to worldwide bookings made before March 14th and travel before April 14th. This has caused an influx of booking cancellations. It's not unlikely that they will extend this policy through May and June, and even through the summer. 

Here's a few tips for what you can do when you get cancellations. 

Offer your guests a discount

One reason that your guests may cancel is that they know they can book a cheaper stay. Most Airbnb hosts are offering steep discounts. If you contact them and offer a discount, they may choose to keep the booking. 

Suggest to your guests that they move the booking to a future date

Guests don't cancel because they don't want to travel. They cancel because of travel restrictions or because they are worried about exposure to the Coronavirus. Instead of canceling, suggest to move the booking to a future date. Consider offering a small discount. Moving the booking to a future date is a lot better than losing the booking all together.

Tips to get more Airbnb bookings during the Coronavirus crisis

Let's get to what matters most: how can you get more bookings and survive the Coronavirus storm? The good news is, there's a lot you CAN do, and there are many hosts who have applied the strategies below to prove that they work. 

Apply a “Crisis discount”

This is not the time to charge top dollar. Focus on keeping a reasonable level of occupancy. No bookings means no money and no visibility in the search results.

airbnb coronavirus discount

Reach out to your personal network and let people know that you're offering discounted stays. Target people who live nearby. A lot of people have canceled their international travel plans and may be looking to stay somewhere close.

Pivot to medium-term or long-term rentals

As of now, many states and counties no longer allow vacation rentals to operate for travelers. Only for people sheltering in place or for healthcare workers either traveling or isolating themselves. This may be a good time to switch to medium-term rentals to provide for them. If you're scared about squatters, I wrote a guide about how to prevent squatters when switching to medium-term rentals.

Download the Airbnb Corona Survival Kit

Keep your short-term rental business alive with our recession-proof strategies.

airbnb coronavirus

Address coronavirus concerns

Guests are concerned about exposure to the Corona virus. You want to address those concerns in your messaging and marketing to make your potential guests feel comfortable and book with you.

Let them know they don't have to go to busy supermarkets. 

Coronavirus airbnb title example


Cancellations are through the roof…bookings have crashed. Have you adapted? Let's get you a plan. 

How to keep your listing clean

Here are tips to keep your listing as clean and safe as possible. Lucky for us, COVID-19 is an enveloped virus, which means it can be washed away with soap and water. But you need to make sure your cleaners, if they’re sticking around, stay safe.

For one, you do not need to ask your cleaners to wear a mask, since the virus is not airborne, but they do need to avoid touching their faces.

Here are some cleaning guidelines that Properly has suggested in a recent blog post (highlighting to instruct your cleaners to aim for safety, not efficiency, and compensate them accordingly):

    1. Wipe down light switches, lamps, cupboard handles, doorknobs, banisters, remotes, and thermostats.
    2. Run all of your dishes and flatware, even clean ones, through the dishwasher.
    3. Sanitize high-contamination sites (bathroom toilet, sink, trash can, and toilet brush). 
    4. Wipe down all appliances, electronics, and provided amenities.
    5. Clean and/or replace sponges and soap dispenser.
    6. Run all linens through the laundry – even the clean ones.
    7. Clean your cleaning items. 
    8. Just before your cleaner leaves the property, have them sterilize your entry method. 

We'll be updating this page on a regular basis, be sure to keep coming back to check for more information.