SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Thousands of Airbnb users have booked vacation rentals in war-battered Ukraine, not to visit but to provide aid to local hosts struggling to survive the Russian invasion.
Over a two-day period last week, some USD1.9 million was spent on reservations for more than 61,000 nights in Ukraine, a spokesperson for the San Francisco-based company told AFP on Tuesday.
The outpouring of support came as Airbnb announced a suspension of its business in Russia and Belarus, joining a US tech freeze-out of Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
After booking their rentals on Airbnb, some users shared on social media the heart-stirring responses they received from Ukrainian hosts thanking them for financial and moral support.
One user told AFP that she and her husband had made reservations in the besieged cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv. “You have people that are in the middle of an active crisis,” said Meghan Bamford, of Edmonton, Canada.
“If you can get money directly into their accounts, that’s the difference between somebody being forced to stay in somewhere like Kyiv or surrounding communities or potentially being able to get out.”
Bamford and her husband still donate to relief organisations, but said they used Airbnb to quickly get cash directly to Ukrainians.
Airbnb did not start the campaign, but actively supports it.