Airbnb was built on the premise of bringing the world closer together. Tourists could travel like locals, while locals could cash in on their desirable neighbourhood properties by letting those visitors in. Last year the company was estimated to be worth more than US$30bn. It is scheduled to go public in 2020. Then came the Covid-19 pandemic.
Stephen Colman, who was an Airbnb host and ran an Airbnb management business up until last year, says “the whole industry has fallen through”. Many hosts are either pulling out of Airbnb to find cheaper long-term tenants or have been offering “14-day isolation suites”.
“There are real concerns around cleaning stuff,” Colman says, “How many hours between checkout and check-in … [Hosts] have seen a fightback from body corporates who are just outright cancelling the key fobs for anyone who they believe is doing Airbnb. They’ve just gone ‘we’re going to take this hard line to protect the safety of our long-term tenants’.”
Jane Hearn, deputy chair of the Owners Corporation Network, has argued that opening Airbnb properties for quarantine “increases the viral load on apartment owners and tenants”. Resident advocacy groups such as We Live Here and Neighbours Not Strangers were already lobbying against Airbnb on behalf of local communities who were sick of rowdy travellers in their apartment complexes. In a letter to New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian on 1 April, Neighbours Not Strangers called for an immediate ban on all short-term rentals, due to the risks from Covid-19.