Airbnb tackles New Year’s Eve pandemic parties with booking restrictions

The company’s changes have been made in order to “protect public health.”

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Airbnb has announced changes to its online booking platform to deter "unauthorized" New Year's Eve parties. 

With 2020 coming to a close and the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing, depending on the country and the local restrictions still in place, some individuals may be tempted to use the platform to secure a property in order to host New Year's Eve parties. 

However, in light of the COVID-19 transmission risks associated with large gatherings without social distancing, Airbnb is making its stance known -- by warning users now of the consequences of these parties. 

On December 3, Airbnb -- the provider of a platform for booking short-stay homes and residences -- said in a blog post that the company will "strengthen our hosts' protection against unauthorized house parties and large gatherings over New Year's Eve."

"As New Year's Eve approaches, we are deploying more stringent restrictions on one and two-night reservations that may pose heightened risk for parties," Airbnb says. "We will leverage our technology that restricts certain local and last-minute bookings by guests without a history of positive reviews on Airbnb and also block reservations within an expanded radius."

The changes impact users in the US, UK, Canada, Mexico, Australia, France and Spain. Now, any guests without the backing of positive review histories will not be able to book entire homes on NYE.

However, anyone with positive review histories will not be restricted, and one-night reservations that have already been booked will be honored. 

"Our data has historically shown that one-night New Year's Eve bookings made prior to now very rarely lead to unauthorized parties," the company said, in order to explain the reasoning behind this decision. 

When bookings are made, customers must agree to Airbnb's Parties and Events policy, which has already banned parties and events "indefinitely until further notice." The policy has enforced an occupancy cap of 16 people on rentals.  

See also: Airbnb may be exposing private host inbox messages, bookings and earnings data

Those who circumvent Airbnb's attempt to stop large NYE gatherings could be suspended or removed from the platform and may also face legal action from the company. 

However, given how 2020 has rolled out and the likelihood that not everyone will obey, Airbnb has also created a virtual support center and will have "safety agents" on call during NYE. 

The booking changes lean upon Airbnb's decision at Halloween to also ban one-night reservations in an effort to stop partygoers during the crisis. Airbnb added that the restrictions "meet this specific public health moment, prioritize safe and responsible travel, and [we will] do our part to try and stop large gatherings that can spread this virus."

Airbnb registered its intent to launch an Initial Public Offering (IPO) with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last month, citing increased consumer interest in domestic travel and the work from home movement as reasons for recent bookings recovery.

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