Airbnb extends booking suspensions in Beijing as coronavirus hits rental platforms
Local home-sharing rival Xiaozhu is also taking a hit along with other platforms as tourism to China collapses
Online home-sharing service Airbnb has extended the suspension on all bookings in Beijing through April, complying with the Chinese capital’s efforts to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
That move marks the second time Airbnb has suspended activities in Beijing, as widespread concerns over the virus outbreak has led to an unprecedented collapse in travel and tourism across mainland China.
The San Francisco-based company suspended bookings in Beijing, covering check-in arrangements from February 7 to April 30, “in accordance with guidance issued by the government” to short-term rental platforms, a company spokesman confirmed on Wednesday.
Airbnb, domestic rival Xiaozhu and several other home-sharing platforms separately announced last week that they would take listings in the city offline through the end of February to comply with local regulations. They indicated that refunds would be offered to all affected users, including those who had canceled reservations amid the health crisis.
The extended suspension of service by home-sharing platforms in Beijing has come as the new virus strain has so far infected more than 44,000 people and killed more than 1,000 in mainland China, with cases reported in more than 20 other countries.
The outbreak has dealt a big blow to China’s short-term rental market, which was worth US$4.2 billion in 2018, according to a research note by DBS Bank. The country commands close to 60% of that market in Asia, according to Euromonitor.
It has also hurt tourism in the world’s second largest economy. Major ticketing and hotel-booking platforms in China started offering free cancellations to users since the Lunar New Year holiday amid the health scare.
“While the industry is playing its part to help prevent the spread of the virus, the outbreak will inevitably cause significant disruption of schedules and travel patterns in the short and medium term,” said Peter Morris, chief economist at aviation consultancy Ascend by Cirium, in a statement.