People book Airbnbs in Ukraine – not to stay, but to support

Families are waiting to travel to the main bus and train station in Lviv, Ukraine on Saturday. More than a million people have fled Ukraine following Russia’s assault on the country, with many Ukrainians passing through Lviv on their way to Poland.

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Some people have found a new way to get money to Ukrainians as their country is attacked by Russia: booking immediate Airbnb stays that they have no intention of using.

Airbnb hosts get paid 24 hours after a guest checks in, so people abroad book stays and let hosts know it’s a show of solidarity and they don’t are not planning to show up.

The idea has caught on over the past few days, and Airbnb is waiving all host and guest fees in Ukraine for now. On Wednesday and Thursday, more than 61,000 nights were booked in Ukraine worldwide — bookings that brought in nearly $2 million, Airbnb told NPR.

Reservations helped create a sense of connection

Sarah Brown, a 42-year-old woman who lives in Salt Lake City, is one of those who got the ball rolling in a Facebook group for Airbnb hosts. She booked a stay in Kiev.

The host thanked Brown for her support, writing, “It matters and it helps us survive these toughest days.”

An exchange between a Ukrainian Airbnb host and guest Sarah Brown, who booked the stay to show solidarity with Ukraine.

An exchange between a Ukrainian Airbnb host and guest Sarah Brown, who booked the stay to show solidarity with Ukraine.

Sarah Brown

Someone from the Facebook group noted that it was important to support Ukrainians in places other than Kyiv, so Brown booked two more stints in smaller towns, with plans for more.

She says the experience helped her feel more invested in Ukraine beyond the news, by connecting with a real person.

“It makes me feel like I have so much more skin in the game. I’m so heartbroken for Ukraine, but I don’t know anyone there. And now I care so much about this woman and what’s happening to him,” Brown said. . “It doesn’t happen to someone who goes far away – it happens to people we know now.”

Of course, Airbnb hosts might not be the most needy. But Brown says there are ways to find hosts who likely have limited means, such as seeking out those who rent a shared room or live in smaller towns.

The company has taken its own steps to help Ukrainians

While this phenomenon seems to have grown in popularity, Airbnb also has its own initiative to provide housing for people in need. The company will provide free short-term housing to 100,000 people fleeing Ukraine. People can go to Airbnb.org and sign up to host refugees or donate to the cause.

CEO Brian Chesky said this week that the company had suspended its activities in Russia and Belarus.

For Brown, the reservations are not meant to replace donations to organizations like the Red Cross that provide crucial aid.

“It’s a multi-pronged approach,” she says. “It’s as much about shared solidarity and making sure people don’t feel alone, as much as getting money to those who need it most.”

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