Airbnb: Should You Still Rent a Room?
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Airbnb: Should You Still Rent a Room?

Kellie Amos

Kellie Amos

26/03/2021 • 4 minute read

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Understanding the risks in a COVID-19 world

With schoolies and Christmas holidays coming up, the temptation to travel this summer season is high. Yet, even though COVID-19 cases have remained low across Australia and lockdown restrictions are easing, many travellers are still wary of the risks.

Before the pandemic, you might have preferred Airbnbs and vacation rentals over hotels because of their extra space and home-style comforts (especially for longer stays). Now, you might be eyeing them up for entirely different reasons – like their limited interaction with other people and easy accessibility.

But Airbnb cleanliness isn’t always guaranteed. It’s also a lot harder to standardise, given it’s up to each host to clean their properties. So, just how safe is it than to rent a room with Airbnb during COVID? And could it really be a safer option than staying at a hotel? Let’s unpack.

Airbnb’s response to COVID

After the pandemic hit, Airbnb was pretty quick to come out with its own set of community health guidelines. Under this, they outlined three key requirements:

  1. Mask wearing: Guests and hosts are required to wear masks when interacting.
  2. Social distancing: Hosts and guests must maintain the recommended social distance of two metres or more.
  3. Enhanced cleaning: Hosts must follow Airbnb’s expert-backed, five-step enhanced cleaning process between guest stays.

What is Airbnb’s enhanced cleaning process?

One of the biggest requirements under Airbnb’s new guidelines is their enhanced cleaning process. Basically, this is a 5-step cleaning practice that all hosts are required to follow between guest stays (in addition to any local laws and guidelines). The process has been adapted from Airbnb’s cleaning handbook, which Airbnb says “was developed in partnership with experts in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19”.

Here’s a quick summary of the steps:

Step 1: Prepare Ventilate and disinfect the space.
Step 2: Clean Clean all dishes, linen, and surfaces of dust/dirt.
Step 3: Sanitise Disinfect all surfaces, especially high-touch ones (e.g. door handles)
Step 4: Check Check off each room based on Airbnb’s cleaning checklists.
Step 5: Reset Replace items for the next guest, after all cleaning has been finished.

You can read up one the full requirements under each step here.

How is Airbnb enforcing these policies?

This is where things get a little tricky. Hosts who don’t agree to these COVID-19 safety measures by 20 November 2020 will be unable to accept reservations, have their listings suspended, or even have their listing removed from Airbnb. Even if they do agree though, Airbnb doesn’t have any physical way to really police these practices. They’re simply acting on good faith.

When you consider that many of these processes would also be difficult to quantify as a guest – particularly when it comes to ventilating and disinfecting spaces – it’s easy to see how things could go wrong. Of course, it serves the interests of hosts to keep their spaces safe to maintain their reviews and protect themselves from infection.

Which is safer: Airbnb or a hotel?

Ultimately, it comes down to a case by case basis. Many hotels have had stringent cleaning procedures in place, long before COVID. As a result, they may be more reliable with their disinfecting than Airbnb hosts. Yet, staying at an Airbnb is less likely to put you into contact with people outside your travel group. Often, you can even pick up the keys without coming into contact with anyone.

It’s also worth noting that the novel coronavirus is known to settle out of the air fairly quickly. Usually it takes about one to three hours under experimental conditions, so possibly much less in real-world scenarios. This means that the air quality is unlikely to be a concern by the time you get to a hotel room or an Airbnb.

So, which is safer? Well both and neither. Coronavirus can make it’s way into any space, so there’s no guarantees wherever you choose to stay. An Airbnb may be the safer choice if you’re looking to minimise your contact with others, but really, it comes down to the individual.

What do you feel most comfortable with?

Extra precautions you can take while travelling

When it comes to travelling during COVID-19, there are also a number of precautions you can personally take to help minimise risks. Here are some of the big ones as recommended by Queensland Health:

  • If you feel sick, stay home.
  • If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild, get tested.
  • Consider getting the flu shot.
  • Make hygiene your number one priority when travelling.
  • Practice social distancing – stay 1.5m away from other people (unless they’re from your group).
  • Good hand hygiene – wash your hands regularly + use alcohol-based sanitiser.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Pack tissues, hand sanitiser and disinfecting wipes before you go out.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing.
  • If flying, go contactless wherever you can by booking and checking-in online.
  • Provide your contact details at venues.
  • Download the COVIDSafe app.

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Kellie Amos

Written by Kellie Amos

Kellie Amos is a contributing writer for Oiyo. She has a Bachelor of Business in Marketing and a Bachelor of Creative Industries in Creative & Professional Writing from the Queensland University of Technology. Kellie has previously produced content for a range of finance companies, entertainment publications, and fintechs.

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