Ukraine Airbnbs being booked in effort to get money to residents

People are paying but not staying, as rental platform offers free housing to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees

  • Russia-Ukraine crisis: live news

Last modified on Thu 3 Mar 2022 12.44 EST

Members of the public are paying for Airbnb rentals in Ukraine to help get money to residents who are facing extreme financial hardship because of the Russian invasion.

The home rental platform has already moved to offer free housing to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, but members of the public have come up with a novel way to financially help those who either intend to remain or are trapped in the country owing to the conflict.

One couple who made a booking for 3-10 March in Kyiv, posted confirmation on Twitter and wrote: “Hello Maria, my wife and I have just booked your apartment for one week, but of course we will not be visiting. This is just so you can receive some money.”

Another Twitter user said they had also booked a week’s stay, and encouraged others to share the idea. A third called on Airbnb to drop its fees, which typically range from 3% to 15%, so the Ukrainian hosts receive all the proceeds.

An Airbnb spokesperson said it would be waiving fees in the country. “We appreciate the generosity of our community during this moment of crisis,” she said. “Airbnb is also waiving all guest and host fees on all bookings in Ukraine at this time.”

Airbnb, which last year took bookings for 300m nights across 4 million hosts globally, worth a total of $46.8bn (£35bn), lists more than 300 properties for rental across Ukraine.

Brian Chesky, its chief executive and co-founder, said the company would review whether to continue its operations in Russia as a result of Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.

“We don’t have a large business in Russia,” he told CNN. “It is not one of our major markets. [But] we are absolutely revisiting our relationship [about whether] to do business in Russia.”

On Monday Airbnb pledged to offer free housing to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. The spokesperson said the company had received an “overwhelming response” to the initiative, with more than 260,000 visitors so far to a dedicated page where it is possible sign up to be a host or donate.

Chesky said that in the last decade the company had provided housing free of charge to 54,000 refugees globally in conjunction with its hosts, most recently in relation to last year’s crisis in Afghanistan.

“In a global humanitarian crisis like this I think everyone should ask the question: how can we help,” he said. “The way Airbnb can help is we provide housing for millions of people every night all over the world. If you want to take in a refugee family, we are going to work with resettlement partners.”

Chesky said he and his co-founders would also be contributing some of their own money to the cause. The 40-year-old was awarded stock worth $120m after Airbnb’s flotation in 2020, with its ultimate value dependent on the performance of the business over the next decade.

Chesky has pledged to donate the net proceeds from his equity award to “community, philanthropic and charitable causes,” and has given $100m in stock to a $1.7bn endowment fund set up to help Airbnb hosts. He received total compensation of $421,000 in 2019.

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