Airbnb has come under fire following an investigation by the BBC which found hosts on the travel site advertising their places to stay as ‘Covid-19 retreats’.
The BBC found that owners were being able to list homes with an instant booking function without any vetting, using promotional slogans such as ‘perfect for isolating with the family’ and ignoring all official government advice surrounding the lockdown.
New coronavirus laws say holiday accommodation should be provided only to keyworkers needing to self-isolate.
After being contacted by the BBC, Airbnb disabled its ‘instant book’ function for whole properties.
“We want hosts and guests to follow the rules and we have no tolerance for listings that ignore health or travel advisories,” an Airbnb spokesperson said.
“The government has set out clear guidance on the limited conditions under which necessary travel is permitted and we have taken a number of steps to support these measures.
“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.”
In response to the BBC News’s findings, Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “Our advice is clear.
“Essential travel does not include holidays, leisure travel and visits to second homes – and people must remain in their primary residence.
“It is incredibly irresponsible, and dangerous for some property owners to be marketing themselves as ‘isolation retreats’.”
Currently the Airbnb cancellation policy allows guests who have booked stays between 14 March and 31 May to apply for a full-refund cancellation. This decision was met with scrutiny from hosts who then missed out on income.
In response, Airbnb acknowledged this and agreed to pay £200m to help cover the cost of these cancellations.