Users slam Airbnb after being asked to donate money to previous hosts

The platform rolled out a new tool that asks guests to send cash donations to former hosts 'impacted by Covid-19'

Airbnb is one of the notable successes of the post-Great Recession era. AFP
Airbnb is one of the notable successes of the post-Great Recession era. AFP

Airbnb has drawn the ire of users after a new tool was rolled out that encourages people to send e-cards and financial donations to previous hosts who have been impacted by Covid-19.

Airbnb has called the new tool "kindness cards", a type of e-card where people can send previous hosts well wishes during the pandemic.

Airbnb's revenue has suffered in recent months as people stopped travelling and short-term rentals were unable to be let out. In May, the company announced it would make 1,900 staff redundant, about a quarter of its global workforce, as it forecast its revenues in 2020 would be half the $4.8 billion (Dh17.63bn) it made in 2019.

And given that it's still a multi-billion dollar company, asking its user base to send cash contributions didn't sit well with many.

The new e-card comes in a variety of languages, and you can either choose from a range of pre-written messages of support for your host, or write your own. The final step of the process is an "option to include a financial contribution where 100 per cent of your payment goes directly to the host", the instructions on the Airbnb website say.

After the kindness cards were announced by the company in an email to its users, journalist Rosaleen Fenton wrote, in a tweet that quickly went viral: "Why would I donate to my host? I can't even afford one house."

The move was then widely derided on social media, with many accusing the rental site of taking advantage of the pandemic.

One Twitter user joked that they would fill out the kindness card to say: "Dear AirBnB host, thank you for making rent unaffordable in this city. The only thing worse than a landlord is a wannabe landlord with even fewer responsibilities."

Others shared anecdotes of being refused refunds due to cancelled trips due to the pandemic.

In response to the backlash, Airbnb told SFGate that the feature had been developed in reaction to user messages.

"During this challenging time we heard from many Airbnb guests who were interested in supporting and reconnecting with past hosts," the company said. "In the spirit of rekindling connections, we developed a new feature that allows guests to send virtual cards with messages of support and encouragement to hosts who provided excellent hospitality."

Published: July 15, 2020 01:03 PM

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