Airbnb released new guidelines on cleaning and booking protocols as part of its response to the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The home-sharing and hospitality services company issued a press release last April 27 on what has been dubbed as its new “Enhanced Cleaning Initiative,” or ECI. The guidelines cover a variety of sanitation protocols that it is urging its hosts to follow in order to keep their listings, and their guests, safe from Covid-19.
A hefty read
The manual itself is a whopping forty pages long and was developed in partnership with former U.S. surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy. It also enlisted the help of water, hygiene, and infection prevention firm Ecolab Inc.
According to the manual, Airbnb hosts and their cleaning staff should adhere to strict Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines during the cleaning and sanitation of leased spaces.
All of the individuals involved in the management and cleaning of the unit should be clad in personal protective equipment (PPEs) in order to reduce the risk of infection.
It also outlines the materials to be used for cleaning, specifically the types of disinfectants and cleaning agents that are ideal for the task of cleaning units previously used by Airbnb guests.
“As a society, we need to observe the physical distancing recommendations made by public health officials while finding ways to preserve and strengthen human connection,” said Dr. Murthy in a statement.
“I’m looking forward to helping the Airbnb community as it develops a health and science based approach for safe travel lodging and experiences. These approaches will continue to evolve as our knowledge and understanding of COVID-19 grows,” he added.
That’s not all the company is doing to ensure the safety of its patrons, however. Airbnb is also instituting a mandatory buffer of twenty-four hours in between bookings, as recommended by the CDC.
This means that guests will be obliged to distance their bookings from other guests. This is also designed to give hosts enough time to properly clean and disinfect the hosted space.
The new feature also has a “Booking Buffer” option, should the host not feel confident enough that they can properly clean the space within the twenty-four hour period. This extends the buffer to 72 hours, giving them plenty of time to ensure proper cleanliness.
The company revealed that the data obtained via surveys showed that patrons held cleanliness in high priority, especially during the novel coronavirus outbreak. Airbnb believes that the ECI will help guests with choosing the perfect hosts for their needs.
However, whether these protocols will be enough to help the company stay busy during this period remains to be seen. Hospitality analytics firm Smith Travel Research (STR) has released data that shows the hospitality industry as a whole has slowed down significantly.
Current occupancy rates for 1Q20 have dwindled to roughly 51.8% across the industry, the lowest occupancy rate in recorded history. And a year-on-year comparison of occupancy rates shows that the rate has gone down by around 15.9%.
While the numbers from Airbnb are not available in the public domain as it isn’t a publicly-traded company, its numbers are likely to reflect the same downward trend.
In order to help their hosts during this lean period, Airbnb has put together a US$2 billion [AU$3.08 billion] loan and assistance program that will be distributed to their hosts. However, these individuals have said that the amount won’t nearly be enough to cover losses, as reported by CNN.
Airbnb also angered many of its hosts by implementing an updated cancellation policy last March, without discussing the action with them first. This resulted in no-fee guest cancellations, where hosts ended up refunding guests in full.
The sudden change in cancellation policy, and the more lenient cancellation deadlines, cost the company’s hosts a total of $250 million of refund costs. Airbnb then set up a fund to help affected hosts with this problem.
With the company’s new ECI, Airbnb hopes to work together with the government in slowly revitalizing the hospitality industry. It plans on developing a new baseline for room and leased space cleanliness that would significantly reduce the potential risk from the novel coronavirus.
“We are working with leading experts in health and hygiene so that our community’s trademark hospitality can incorporate official guidance and fulfill new personal preferences, with hosts and guests uniting to offer, manage and enjoy cleaner accommodations,” said Greg Greeley, president of Homes at Airbnb.
“Homes have become a place of shelter, and the future of travel will also rely on a new comfort zone, with the privacy and benefits of a home away from home, without crowds or high turnovers,” he added.