What COVID-19 means for Airbnb Hosts

On March 11 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of COVID-19 to be a global pandemic. Since then, the situation has been rapidly changing as governments and the rest of the world take action to slow the spread. It’s affecting the way we do business, the way we work, and the way we live our day-to-day lives. But how is it affecting Airbnb hosts?

Here’s what you should know.


So is Airbnb dead?

While the tourism industry is taking a massive hit – with hotels all over the country doing massive layoffs and even temporarily shutting their doors – there is still a place for Airbnb in all of this. Furnished, short-term rentals are in high demand right now, but it’s not your typical guests.


Hosts have been seeing mass cancellations as guests are forced to opt out of their travel plans. Last week, Airbnb updated their extenuating circumstances policy to. (see: Extenuating circumstances policy and the coronavirus)

“Reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made on or before March 14, 2020, with a check-in date between March 14, 2020 and April 14, 2020, may be cancelled before check-in. This means that guests who cancel will receive a full refund, hosts can cancel without charge or impact to their Superhost status, and Airbnb will refund all service fees.

Reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made on or before March 14, 2020, with a check-in date after April 14, 2020, are not currently covered for COVID-19 related extenuating circumstances. The host’s cancellation policy will apply as usual.

If a reservation has already begun (the check-in has passed) this extenuating circumstance does not apply.”

On the other hand, if you, the host, wishes to cancel a reservation, you will not be charged, there will be no impact to your Superhost status, and Airbnb will refund all service fees. There is no need to contact Airbnb in this case.

Of course, since this is a rapidly changing situation, the policy will likely be updated again soon and it’s something all hosts should keep an eye out for.


Who’s staying in Airbnbs right now?

There’s a new influx of guests right now. But they’re not necessarily your usual guests.

Rather than travellers, what we’re seeing right now is people who have been displaced due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are looking for temporary furnished accommodations. Here’s what you can expect as far as guests go:

  • Students: Student residences all over the country have been closing, leaving students to find new accommodations for the time being. They’re not necessarily ready to sign a long-term lease, and they don’t have furnishings. A furnished Airbnb rental is the perfect place for a temporary stay.

  • Government workers from overseas: In Ottawa, we’re seeing a lot of government workers from overseas (whether from the embassies or consulates, global affairs, etc) who have been displaced for the time being.

  • Medical Professionals: Medical professionals, such as nurses and doctors who are working on the front lines of the pandemic, are forced to isolate from their families and loved ones. This means that they may be displaced from their homes for the time being and need somewhere to stay.

  • High-risk cases: Those who are high-risk may need to isolate themselves completely. These people are looking for temporary accommodations in a comfortable furnished space.


What we foresee

We’re constantly monitoring the current situation as it is changing daily. Based on what we’re seeing, here’s what we foresee:

  • Higher demand for furnished rentals: When people are displaced suddenly, getting furniture sorted isn’t exactly easy. People will be in need of furnished suites.

  • Longer bookings: Expect longer bookings than usual. Think one month instead of 2 days. You’ll be seeing a lower turnover rate.

  • Lower price points: Hosts should reduce their nightly rate right now to remain competitive. We’re talking slashing your pricing in half to stay afloat. This is also a time when we should be coming together, so providing people in your community with a safe, affordable place to stay is ultra important right now.


While things are surely shaken up for Airbnb hosts, there is still a lot of opportunity for bookings. Now is the time to support your communities and provide those in need with a place to lay their heads.

We’ll be continuing to monitor the situation and providing our insights on how this will affect Airbnb. Please contact us if you’re looking for assistance with your Airbnb in Ottawa.