Over the last few days, Airbnb hosts in Ukraine have been receiving an overwhelming amount of booking requests from people across the world who don’t plan to show up. The gestures are part of a new way people have been showing their support to those affected by the war in Eastern Europe.
Sarah Brown, a resident of Salt Lake City, is among those who took the initiative in a Facebook group for Airbnb hosts. She booked a stay in Kyiv, as well as two more stays in smaller cities after someone noted that it was important to support Ukrainians outside Kyiv too.
One of the hosts who received a booking request from Brown is Ekaterina Martiusheva. In an interview with NPR, she said the bookings have been a great help to her: “These days we do not have any income. We do not have any right to ask our country to help us, because all the country’s resources are for the war and for the victory.”
The idea caught on quickly, with Airbnb now waiving all host and guest fees for Ukraine. On Wednesday and Thursday last week, people from around the world booked over 61,000 nights in Ukraine — bookings that amounted to about $2 million, according to NPR.
The bookings have helped build a sense of connection
In addition to financial support, the bookings have also had a positive effect on people’s morale. Brown, for instance, says that she now feels directly connected with people whose lives have been turned upside down as a result of the war.
“It makes me feel like I have so much more skin in the game. I am so heartbroken for Ukraine, but I don’t know anyone there. And now I care so much about this woman and what happens to her,” she tells NPR. “It’s not happening to someone far away — it’s happening to people we now know.”
Brown is aware that Airbnb hosts may not be the neediest cases, but she notes that there are ways to find hosts who likely have limited resources. For example, by looking for hosts who rent out shared rooms or live in smaller towns or villages.
On her end, Martiusheva notes that the bookings have been particularly valuable because of the moral support. “It’s not just money, it’s the support and encouragement. We get these notes of people who are calling us brave, and it does feel great,” she says. “It’s just amazing, really.”
The company has taken its own steps to help Ukrainians
In addition to the solidarity bookings, which have started as a grassroots initiative, Airbnb is also making efforts to help those in need. As such, the company pledged to offer short-term housing for free to up to 100,000 people fleeing the war in Ukraine. To benefit from the offer, people can go to airbnb.org to sign up to host refugees or help with donations.