Airbnb Australian hosts offer up accommodation to frontline medical staff
Thousands of Australian Airbnb hosts have offered up their accommodation to frontline medical staff fighting the spread of the deadly COVID-19.
The new Frontline Stays program provides accommodation for frontline medics and health staff who are responding to the pandemic with many hosts offering up properties for free or at a discount.
More than 5000 Australians have signed up so far, adding to the more than 100,000 hosts around the world who are on board with the program.
In NSW, Megan Murphy, 52, and her partner Fran Cocksworth, 56, will be providing their self-contained studio out the back of their Newport home for free to health workers on the COVID-19 front lines through Airbnb’s program.
“We do a lot of volunteer work where we can, we like to give back to the community,” Ms Murphy said.
“These doctors and nurses and healthcare workers are doing such a great job, we just wanted to be able to help out in some sort of way.”
They have also been helping those who are stuck in Australia due to tight travel restrictions by giving them somewhere safe and secure to stay.
“We’ve had some cancellations in our accommodation because we were booked out until June,” Ms Murphy said.
“We thought we wouldn’t have any bookings, but there’s a lot of people stuck for accommodation because they can’t leave the country.
“We’ve been helping people out and we’ve reduced our rent to about a third of what we normally charge just to try and support people where we can.”
Ms Murphy said they’d been Airbnb hosts for about 6 years and loved sharing the 90-year-old guesthouse with travellers.
“It’s such a beautiful space, we just want to enjoy sharing the space with other people,” she said.
Chris Byrne, 52, signed up to the Frontline Stays program after hosting a doctor from the US who was doing an exchange program at a nearby hospital.
The doctor and his family, from South Carolina, had stayed in the Yarraville home Mr Byrne rents out on Airbnb for three months before they decided to return home due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Mr Byrne fully refunded the accommodation, but with booking cancellations due to travel restrictions the home was sitting empty.
“When the first responders program came out, that’s when I sort of said, let’s do our little part to help,” he said.
“It’s all about us doing our little bit to help the community and help the first responders and the health workers to make things a little bit easier for them in this environment.”
Mr Byrne said the program provided the added benefit from a security and insurance standpoint as the home was less likely to be sitting empty.
“I felt well if it assists me, but more to the point it could also assist some of these people who are perhaps between a rock and a hard place because some of their housemates are feeling a bit uncertain with the whole coronavirus issue,” he said.
“We’re offering a discounted rate, or in certain situations with Airbnb we’ll do them for free.
Queenslander Cathy Tomlinson, 62, has been an Airbnb host for more than three and a half years and jumped at the opportunity to offer up her Redland Bay accommodation to frontline medical workers.
“I’ve always wanted to give back to the community and I feel very much for all of the medical profession,” Mrs Tomlinson said.
Mrs Tomlinson’s daughter-in-law is a nurse so she knows first-hand the challenges they face.
“Even in normal time nurses have a hard time with shift work and sleeping or whatever,” she said.
“In these sort of times some in the medical areas may not want to expose their families, if they’ve got extended family or elderly living with them, they may want to sleep elsewhere.”
Mrs Tomlinson said accommodation bookings had dried up with the government’s strict isolation and travel restrictions in place, but she wanted to use it as an opportunity to help others.
South Australian Marcus Warren, 64, has been an Airbnb host for 12 months and has offered up his Fullarton listing to the Frontline Stays program.
Having been a volunteer ambulance officer for 18 years, predominantly on Kangaroo Island, Mr Warren said he understood the stress frontline medical workers were facing during the COVID-19 crisis.
“I’m quite familiar with health issues and safety tided up with working in that environment. I have accommodation available, so I decided why not?,” he said.
“If you work in that environment, and I just remember this as an ambulance officer, there’s times say when you get home and you just don’t want to walk into your house.
“This is at just a totally higher level than what that was.”
Airbnb Country Manager for Australia and New Zealand Susan Wheeldon said the program would help medical workers who need accommodation for a wide range of reasons including needing to be closer to work, or social distancing from their household.
“It’s a really phenomenal program and it’s always so great to see the generosity of our host community come through and try and help the greater community,” she said.
“It’s just the Australian nature to want to help.”
Airbnb has provided hosts with enhanced cleaning guidelines and only allows properties that offer self-contained accommodation to enter the program.
Homes are also unable to be booked less than 72 hours after the previous booking.
“We know that we’ve got quite a large amount of demand so we’re currently just pairing the supply we have with the demand,” Ms Wheeldon said.
“I think it’s going to be quite a popular opportunity for people.”
Ms Wheeldon said Airbnb was in communication with the State Governments, some of which are devising plans to offer hotel rooms to frontline workers.
“We’ll continue to work with the governments and if there’s an opportunity, we’ll happily work with them on that as well,” she said.
Airbnb will waive all fees on the first 100,000 global stays booked through Frontline Stays.
For frontline workers who want to sign up for accommodation or hosts who want to offer their properties, visit airbnb.com.au.