Per a tweet from Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, in the 48 hours between March 2 and March 3, more than 61,000 nights were booked in Ukraine, totaling nearly $1.9 million in stays. Of course, due to armed conflict (and COVID) there is a travel advisory in place and Americans currently in Ukraine have been advised to evacuate immediately. So why are so many flocking to the platform to secure accommodations?
Quite simply, it is — at present — one of the most efficient means to get funds directly into the hands of Ukrainian locals.
“A quick perusal on Airbnb reveals that many Ukraine listings are already booked solid into the summer, be it an entire home in the countryside outside of Kyiv ($10 a night), a studio apartment in Odessa’s Troitska Street ($15 a night) or newly renovated apartment in the center of Kyiv ($20),” Suzanne Rowan Kelleher wrote for Forbes. Of the 61,000 bookings, 34,000 nights were reserved by U.S.-based Airbnb users, 8,000 nights by users in the United Kingdom and roughly 3,000 nights by Canadians. The platform has since waived fees to encourage people to continue booking.
And it’s not the only way Airbnb has stepped up to offer its services over the last few weeks, either. Officials have been partnering with leaders across the E.U., according to Forbes, to help place refugees into available properties.
That said, there is one major caveat, which is that — as Dennis Schaal points out at Skift— Airbnb listings don’t identify whether the host is a professional or an individual whose livelihood is dependent on bookings. There have been several incidences in which well-intentioned users have booked stays with who they thought were the latter. In actuality, the hosts in question had several other properties (in one case, the host had 39 listings), which suggests that the host is a professional property manager … and may not reside in the Ukraine at all.
In an Instagram Live feed, noted by Skift, Simon Calder of Calder Travel said that “using Airbnb as a way to donate to Ukraine could inadvertently help Russia,” assuming there are at least a handful of Russia-based hosts with Airbnb rentals in Ukraine.
Fortunately, in addition to leveraging properties to help Ukrainians, Airbnb has also set up a donation page on their site for those who wish to make a monetary contribution instead.
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