The decision applies only to Beijing, a spokesperson for Airbnb China told Reuters. The spokesperson added that the company would continue to assess the situation and coordinate with local authorities.
The Silicon Valley-based firm said affected customers would receive refunds. “We will refund and support guests who had canceled reservations. And we will continue to work diligently to build programs that support our community of hosts,” an Airbnb spokesman said in a statement to Business Insider.
Airbnb competitor Xiaozhu is also canceling Beijing rentals in February and issuing full refunds. Other firms in the homesharing space – including Trip.com and Tujia – haven’t yet made announcements.
“In light of the novel Coronavirus outbreak and guidance from local authorities for the short-term rental industry during this public health emergency, bookings of all listings in Beijing with check-in from 7 February 2020 to 29 February 2020 have been suspended,” Airbnb said in its statement. The company “appreciates that disease control efforts are causing overall travel disruptions that also affect our community of guests and hosts.”
As of Monday (Feb. 10), China had reported 908 deaths and about 40,000 cases of the Coronavirus. Ninety-seven people died on Sunday alone, the most since the outbreak began around Jan. 7. China first alerted the World Health Organization (WHO) on Dec. 31 that Wuhan had been hit with several cases of pneumonia.
Airbnb is one of the few Big Tech companies outside of China that is allowed to run in the country. Facebook, Google Search and Twitter are blocked by China’s so-called “Great Firewall.”
The Chinese eCommerce giant Alibaba Group has set up a digital platform – the Alibaba Global Direct Sourcing Platform – to help coordinate global medical supplies to fight the Coronavirus. The B2B platform will serve as an “information bridge” that matches medical suppliers and their products with affected hospitals and authorities.