No one ever wants to cancel their travel plans, but the coronavirus outbreak is forcing many tourists to do just that.
If you’re worried about your travel plans being affected by the recent illness, Airbnb understands and has taken measures to help by issuing a policy for cancellations related to the illness. Typically, bookings through the app fall into a range of six categories from “flexible” to “super strict” that rarely allows cancellations regardless of the reason.
But as coronavirus spreads rapidly and globally and continues to infect people in more than 70 countries, the company has implemented a separate policy that falls under “extenuating circumstances policy.”
CNBC spoke with an Airbnb spokesperson who revealed that the policy will be applied to “any reservation where the host or guest had to cancel the booking in order to comply with restrictions implemented by government or health authorities.”
In other words, travelers or hosts can change or cancel bookings for free if the booking is made in a location impacted by travel warnings or restrictions. Currently, that includes mainland China, South Korea, and parts of northern Italy. This also applies to guests traveling from one of the affected areas.
It also covers those who are unable to complete their trip because of flight cancellations caused by the coronavirus, hosts who were forced to alter plans to “perform medical or disease control duties in connection with the COVID-19 outbreak,” and obviously, anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 or suspected of being infected.
The good news is that the policy will also allow those who are too afraid to travel, who are not affected by any travel restrictions, and who simply want to cancel their reservation as a precaution to cancel without incurring additional charges.
“Given the health and safety risks posed by this virus, we are asking all hosts and guests to please review your local authorities’ travel guidance and health advisories related to this outbreak, in addition to global guidance from the WHO,” Airbnb said on its website. “We strongly urge our community to take necessary precautions to protect yourself when traveling or hosting.”
“Our focus right now is on how we can best support our stakeholders as they are impacted by this global health challenge, including hosts, guests, employees and the communities in which we operate,” Airbnb said.
On Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the U.S. has expanded Iran travel restrictions and raised an advisory to Level Four (the highest level) for regions in South Korea and Italy.
The outbreak is takings its toll on the travel industry. Since the outbreak, U.S. flight bookings to international destinations fell by 20% year-on-year for the five-week ending February 23, according to data from ForwardKeys as many folks are deciding to cancel or postpone their trips until the threat subsides.