Airbnb has implemented changes to its cancellation policies in response to the escalating coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, which saw the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared a global pandemic on Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know if you want to call off your trip.

Travellers around the world are canceling bookings as the crisis escalates © maroke/Shutterstock

The short-term letting giant, which currently hosts over five million properties in almost 200 countries, says it is committed to hosts who are ‘willing and able’ to give refunds on cancellations. “When a crisis like coronavirus hits, we know both hosts and guests are affected”, the company said on its website. “Hosts lose earnings that they rely on to make ends meet. Guests are losing hard-earned vacation savings.”

Read more: Should I cancel my travel plans in light of the coronavirus outbreak?

Hosts and guests pay a shared 3% processing fee for bookings, and the new measures include waiving this for ‘flexible’ hosts who “offer refunds on cancellations that would have otherwise been subject to charges,” along with an offer of vouchers to customers who wish to cancel a booking before 1 June but are not due a refund of their guest service fee. Airbnb also announced that it will ‘enhance’ its policies around extenuating circumstances for cancellations.  

The updated extenuating circumstances policy will give a full refund to people travelling to or from ‘severely affected’ areas, as well as their prospective hosts.  So far, mainland China, Italy and South Korea are included on this list.  

Some customers, however, are claiming that the policy changes are not comprehensive enough. While areas officially deemed no-goes by governments are being considered by the letting company, cancellations of high-profile events, such as Austin’s SXSW, have left a number of customers noting on social media that they were left out of pocket.    

The global short-term letting industry is projecting huge losses in the immediate future, as conferences and other large events around the world are cancelled. Further information on Airbnb’s extenuating circumstances policy can be found here, while details about its updated reservation policies can be accessed here

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