The accommodation listings platform Airbnb has stepped up to the challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic by pledging housing for 100,000 health workers.

The website which has over 7 million listings worldwide in some of the areas worst affected by the coronavirus outbreak. By offering to waive all fees for health workers and first responders staying in properties booked through their platform.

First pioneered to coordinate emergency housing for doctors, nurses and support staff, the programme was developed between the French government and Airbnb.

The letting website is better known for quirky tree-houses than emergency accommodation. Photo / Supplied
The letting website is better known for quirky tree-houses than emergency accommodation. Photo / Supplied

In that country, which is currently battling 22,500 active cases, nearly 4000 hosts have come forward to volunteer their homes to health workers since the scheme was announced on Tuesday.

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It is hoped that by extending the programme to other countries the website will be able to offer an additional 100,000 beds to emergency health care workers.

Airbnb founder Joe Gebbia, announced the project was in response to their hosts' desire to help: "We've heard from countless hosts around the world who want to provide a comforting home to heroic first responders. We are connecting our nonprofit partners, government agencies and others with our incredible host community to work together in these extraordinary times."

Hosts are being asked to follow new sanitation guidelines in response to the pandemic and to donate their properties to the Open Homes project.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

However, The covid-19 pandemic has shaken up the rental platform in more profound ways than prompting disaster relief and new cleanliness guidelines.

Due to the global restrictions on travel the number of properties listed on Airbnb has taken a sharp decline. In once-popular tourists hubs such as Edinburgh have been haemorrhaging homes at a rate of up to 100 listings a day.

Last year one-in-ten houses in the Scottish capital were found to be listed on the platform, according to The Times. Now with an exodus of students and tourists, properties with multiple-tenancy agreements are ending up leased to tenants on long-term leases. Something that – due to strict Scottish safeguards for renters – will be a hard trend to reverse, even after a return to normal.

Wash Ur Hands: The holiday-let market has stalled in Toronto and other tourism hot spots. Photo / Getty Images
Wash Ur Hands: The holiday-let market has stalled in Toronto and other tourism hot spots. Photo / Getty Images

In Queenstown – New Zealand 's second densest location for Airbnbs behind Auckland – there has been a similar scramble to fill empty holiday lets. One Facebook group dedicated to this new market "Self-Isolation Accommodation Group NZ" has gained almost 3000 followers since launching last week.

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Airbnb is aware that as part of the tourism ecosystem, it is not impervious to the global travel freeze.


"While the COVID-19 crisis has significantly disrupted the tourism industry and wider economy, we know that travel is resilient in the long-term and will ultimately recover," says Susan Wheeldon, area manager for New Zealand and Australia.

"Like many others, COVID-19 has caused significant hardship for the everyday people who rely on sharing their home for extra income and understandably in the circumstances some have to make really difficult choices based on their personal circumstances."
While they are aware of this problem in certain areas, Airbnb says they have seen no drop to the "overall number of listings" in New Zealand.