Airbnb has taken thousands of bookings for properties in Ukraine, from people in western countries who have no intention of travelling, but are using the platform as a way of giving cash to people in need. Meanwhile, others are downloading digital crochet and knitting patterns sold by Ukrainians on sites such as Etsy and Ebay in a bid to pour money into the coffers of those still living in the country amid the Russian invasion.
Airbnb said it had booked 61,000 nights of accommodation, including 8,000 from British customers, in the past few days from people living in the West who want to offer financial help to Ukrainians, in a move worth £1.5 million to Ukrainian hosts. It is temporarily waiving guest and host fees on bookings in Ukraine. The company has also suspended operations in Russia and Belarus along with many other international firms.
Customers have taken to Twitter to share the responses they have received from their “hosts” – many of whom say they are using their Airbnb properties to house refugees from other parts of the country.
One Twitter user, @paisleypattern5, shared a screenshot of a reply from host Khrystyna, who wrote: “I help people fleeing from other cities, we have a calm situation for now. In my apartments, eight to ten people live in this time … many women and children. Your money will be used to help those in need, for food and medicine. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Another woman, named Beate, who booked an apartment in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, received a reply from her host Iryna.
She wrote: “Thank you so much for support and contribution to the freedom of Ukraine. We will use this money to help all those who need help in this difficult time. The elderly, women, children who stayed in Kyiv and need food, medicines, warm clothes etc. We have united a group of like-minded people and created a volunteer team that delivers everything people need.”
Some people said they had used other platforms, such as Etsy or Ebay, to buy digital goods from Ukraine in a bid to help locals. Others recommended booking an “experience” such as a city tour with a local operator.
One Twitter user, Charlie, wrote: “I just typed in 'Etsy Ukraine digital files' and bought a crochet pattern to download. Paid via Paypal. Seems like a good way to send a little help fairly quickly.”
Another, Andy Murray, wrote: “You can also book experiences if you'd like to give to someone who may not own property. I just booked a mountain bike tour in Kyiv.”
Airbnb founder Brian Chesky said: “Such a cool idea from our community. Thank you.”
However, experts warned people should ensure that hosts and sellers were genuine, urging would-be donors to check review history to ensure the listings are real.
Travel expert Simon Calder said: “Warning: were I a Russian scammer, I would be setting up fake Airbnbs in Kyiv and Odessa as fast as I could to cash in on those noble intentions.”