Changes in travel industries due to COVID-19 are visible across the country – including Phoenix. One widespread business in local’s backyards faced a questionable future: Airbnb.
However, despite travel restrictions and a crescendo of concern from authorities, visitors kept coming. Even though Airbnb has taken a financial hit from coronavirus, many are still in demand and are appealing to visitors in a different way.
Alessandro Rugge is a local co-host and has witnessed the changes in Airbnb management from day one. “When the pandemic first hit, we actually closed down some of our listings for a couple months,” Rugge says. “Then, we carefully started inviting guests back.”
Once Rugge reopened his properties, he noticed something interesting. “Initially, we saw many cancellations,” he says. “And then, over the next few weeks we saw some new patterns, which we are still seeing today.
Eventually, Rugge noticed many of his visitors were looking for a place of solitude away from home or planning staycations. “We saw a great influx of folks just wanting to stay in a beautiful place where they could social distance from crowded living areas,” he says. “I feel it really kind of provided that refuge they were looking for.”
In some cases, refuge comes with risks. Airbnb has extended its cancellation policies and upgraded their cleaning standards to ensure safety for each guest in response to the pandemic and customer concerns. Still, Airbnb has seen some dramatic decreases in rentals. AirDNA, a global company that analyzes vacation and rental data, reports that Airbnb has lost almost half its revenue in some areas like California and New York since the start of 2020.
Airbnb’s safety efforts are not going unnoticed by medical professionals. Dr. Chaim Kaplan works as a physician assistant for FastMed Urgent Care, and acknowledges the changes Airbnb has made.
“The cleaning and then sanitizing process that Airbnb recommends is a good rule of thumb for all of us to follow,” Kaplan says. “The biggest foreseeable hazard would be patrons putting themselves at risk by having large gatherings against Airbnb rules.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there is a 38 to 78 percent chance of contracting the virus among large groups and events.
“There is significant increased risk with any large gatherings and oftentimes it is hard to deduce the initial exposure in these settings,” Kaplan says. “They are best avoided right now.”
Airbnb has taken action to deter large gatherings. “Reservations made that are high-risk like last minute, one-night stays, will actually give an error message and prevent you from booking,” Rugge says. “Initially my reaction was negative, but the more I think about it, this may be a positive change.”
Kaplan stresses the importance of maintaining proper safety standards and social distancing. “It is not ideal to be regularly in contact with new people, especially those that have just traveled,” Kaplan says. “But proper social distancing and masking per current guidelines can help if direct interactions are necessary. Ultimately, the answer comes down to practices and policies of the particular place of stay.”