Dubai residents have been booking Airbnbs in Ukraine, to help support civilians as the country’s humanitarian crisis continues to unfold.
"People are booking Airbnbs in Ukraine they don't intend to stay in, just to help hosts,” Airbnb chief executive Brian Chesky wrote on Twitter.
“In 48 hours, 61,406 nights have been booked in Ukraine. That's $1.9 million going to hosts in need. Such a cool idea from our community. Thank you.”
In the UAE, a message has been circulating on Instagram, sharing the story of a woman who booked a room in Kyiv as a way to send funds to the property’s host.
“A woman on Facebook had a great idea and I just went on and did the same,” says the message, which is being shared via Instagram Stories. “She logged on to Airbnb and booked a few nights in a private apartment in Kyiv, and then sent a message to say she obviously would not be coming but she hopes the money helps in some way.
“I went through a load of apartments and just picked one that was run by a lady and it was clearly her home. Lots of good reviews about her, it was a simple one room in a home… for anyone thinking about doing it, you never know, it might just help someone directly. What I donated I would have spent on coffees this week. How lucky we are to have our freedom.”
Dubai residents Sarah Fulton and Alex McAlpine have both followed suit, with McAlpine booking a room in Kyiv in April for one week, at a cost of Dh364. The response from the host, Nataliya, came almost immediately: “Thank you so much! It means a lot now!”
McAlpine, who goes by @plantbasedmamadxb on Instagram, explained her reasoning to The National. “I've been struggling with a feeling of helplessness and we have been donating to the Red Cross, but I've felt a calling to share ideas with my Instagram community of how they can make small but impactful contributions.
“A friend told me about a movement to book Airbnb rooms in Ukraine and then send the owner a message letting them know you wouldn't be checking in but you were sending money and wishing for their safety. I went online, booked a one-week stay in Kyiv, messaged the owner and within an hour, I received a message from Nataliya saying thank you and that it was much needed.”
Airbnb has suspended operations in Russia and Belarus, and waived all its fees on properties in Ukraine, ensuring that its hosts in the country benefit fully from any bookings. “We are so humbled by the inspiring generosity of our community during this moment of crisis,” an official statement by the platform read. “Airbnb is temporarily waiving guest and host fees on bookings in Ukraine at this time.”
Airbnb and its charitable arm Airbnb.org have also announced that they will offer free, short-term housing for up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine. “We also encourage anyone interested in getting involved with Airbnb.org to go to airbnb.org/help-ukraine, and support Airbnb.org's initiative to provide housing to refugees fleeing Ukraine, by becoming a host or donating. To date, we have seen an overwhelming response to this effort, with more than 357,000 visitors to this page.”
In addition, Airbnb last week announced an initiative to provide housing to 21,300 Afghan refugees, with a further goal of providing free, temporary housing for another 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan, Africa, the Middle East, Central and South America, among other regions.