Airbnb’s new cleaning protocols include 24-hour vacancies between bookings

Short-term home rental platform Airbnb is introducing a new “enhanced cleaning initiative” that will take effect in May and include a 24-hour vacancy period between bookings, according to a company blog post. The new cleaning protocol is not required for property hosts, but guests will be able to see which hosts are participating in the cleaning initiative in search results on the platform.

Airbnb claims that this is the “first overarching standardized protocol for cleaning and sanitization in the home sharing industry” and that its work to come up with the cleaning protocol is “informed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published standards; leading experts such as Dr. Vivek Murthy, former Surgeon General of the United States; and companies in the hospitality and medical hygiene sector, such as Ecolab.”

Pressed for specifics about the science behind its cleaning initiative, an Airbnb spokesperson said in an email that “the science behind COVID-19 continues to evolve, and we will continue to work to ensure that our guidance reflects the most recent information made available by leading medical experts and authorities.”

The CDC’s current recommendations for cleaning a building after a person infected with the novel coronavirus has visited is to close off areas used by the sick person, opening windows to increase air circulation, and wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting.

Airbnb says hosts should continue to abide by local social distancing and shelter-in-place rules that might affect whether they can book guests at their properties.

“Airbnb’s Enhanced Cleaning Initiative is a program to support hosts and guests in a future of travel, when movement and travel restrictions are eased,” according to the company. “This guidance does not substitute or override local rules and guidelines issued by health and governmental authorities, and we urge our community to adhere to official guidance and do everything they can to take necessary precautions.”

The cleaning protocol will require hosts to use a list of approved products, Airbnb said. If hosts aren’t able to commit to the requirements of the cleaning protocol, they can opt to use what the company is calling a booking buffer, where the hosts agree to keep their properties vacant — except for cleaning — for 72 hours. The same 24-hour waiting period before entering the building to clean would apply.

Airbnb did not address a question about whether hosts would be reimbursed for purchasing the approved cleaning products. The guidelines for the cleaning protocols also include recommendations for what personal protective gear — such as masks and gloves— hosts should wear while cleaning their properties.

“We are working with leading experts in health and hygiene,” Greg Greeley, Airbnb’s president of homes, said in the company blog post. The goal is to get “hosts and guests uniting to offer, manage, and enjoy cleaner accommodations.”

Airbnb had plans to go public this year that were sidelined by the pandemic. The company saw revenue of more than $4.8 billion for 2019, according to Reuters.

The company has run afoul of some of its hosts as it adjusts to the pandemic. Last month, Airbnb extended its extenuating circumstances policy allowing guests to cancel an eligible reservation without being charged for bookings between March 14th and April 14th.

At first, there was no compensation available to hosts under the new cancellation terms, but the company later announced it was setting aside $250 million to help pay hosts for the lost bookings. It also extended the penalty-free cancellation period to bookings between March 14th and May 31st.