Airbnb is facing a backlash after the accommodation service introduced an option for users to donate extra funds to hosts they had stayed with in the past.
In an email, Airbnb said, "Like all of us, hosts on Airbnb are impacted by COVID-19, and many of them are unable to welcome guests.
"Now more than ever, it’s important to reach out and support one another—even in small ways.
"Today, we’re introducing a new way to connect with your favourite hosts. Now you can create personalised kindness cards that make it easy to send a message of appreciation or encouragement, with the option to add a contribution.
"We hope these cards will make hosts smile, and bring a little joy your way."
The move hasn't gone down well.
Why are people upset?
The very nature of Airbnb means its hosts are often those privileged with spare property to rent out. Sometimes, these 'hosts' can have entire portfolios of rental accommodation. Airbnb can be a main source of income, if managed right.
Many questioned why they should be giving money to wealthy property owners, when they themselves struggle to finance their own homes at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic and all the financial instability that brings.
Mike Isaac, a tech reporter for the New York Times, said the idea was prompted by a slew of hosts overextending themselves "by leveraging multiple properties which they rented out pre-Covid, and are now going empty."
On Twitter, Labour councillor Caragh Skipper accused the company of "acting like landlords are charities", while another user joked they would be filling out their kindness card with, "Dear Airbnb host, thank you for making rent unaffordable in this city."
What has Airbnb said?
In a statement to Metro, an Airbnb spokesperson said, "We’ve heard from many guests that want to support hosts during this difficult time and our new e-cards allow them to share messages of support with hosts that may have welcomed them into their home.
"There is also the option for a voluntary financial contribution, with no charges from Airbnb, that goes directly to the hosts, more than half of whom say they rely on the additional income from hosting to afford their home."