- People around the world are looking for ways to help Ukrainians.
- Social media users are booking Airbnbs in Ukraine with no intention of visiting to send money to the hosts.
- Airbnb has decided to forgo host and guest fees for these bookings in Ukraine.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, people around the globe have been looking for ways to help citizens of the embattled country.
Several organisations have set up charities and donation centres to help people in Ukraine, but some worry about where their money is going and how much Ukrainians will actually receive.
But the power of social media has revealed a safe and efficient way to get money directly to Ukrainians. Instead of donating to charities or nonprofits, some people have been booking stays on Airbnb in Ukrainian cities like Kyiv and Kherson with no intention of visiting — just to send money directly to Ukrainian hosts.
Now, the trend is gaining momentum on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, catching the attention of large social media presences like Instagram meme page Quentin Quarantino and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky.
"I see politics being played out and I understand why NATO cannot go in, but I feel very sad and heartbroken for the people… being slaughtered," Yan Asmann, an associate professor at Mayo Clinic who booked three nights in Kiev, told Insider. "It's very hard to watch day-by-day."
Insider spoke with seven people who have booked anywhere between one night to two weeks in cities around Ukraine. It's not the traditional GoFundMe or nonprofit donation route, but almost everyone we spoke to agreed that these Airbnb bookings are the quickest and most secure way to get money directly in the hands of Ukrainians.
To support these acts of relief, Airbnb has decided to forgo guest and host fees for bookings in the country, emphasising that it won't be profiting from these charitable bookings, an Airbnb spokesperson told Insider.
"I did it to show support," Tiffany Marie, an Airbnb user who booked a two-week stay in Kharkiv, told Insider. "I had been wanting to donate but hadn't found anything that really stuck out to me because I'm not always sure where my money goes, so I wanted to pick a specific person."
For people like Alessandra — an Italian postdoctoral researcher at University of California, San Diego — sending money directly to Ukranians is a personal matter. (Alessandra asked to keep her last name anonymous.)
"I'm European and from the first day on the invasion I felt very sad and upset for Ukraine," Alessandra, who volunteered in Albania and Kosovo after the war, told Insider. "This could have happened to anyone in Europe, and we don't know if this invasion will stop there. I want to do whatever I can to help these people."
And it's not just Airbnb's customers. On Monday, the company and its charitable arm Airbnb.org announced it will provide free short-term housing for up to 100,000 refugees leaving Ukraine. "We appreciate the generosity of our community during this moment of crisis," the Airbnb spokesperson told Insider on Thursday, noting that Airbnb.org has seen an "overwhelming response."
Jayde Wise, an English user living in France, said she was inspired by a social media post, and was taken aback by the host's heartfelt response after she booked two nights in Ukraine.
Renee Koval-Ayadi, an American educator living in Qatar, and Patty Hartmann, a German national living in the US, have also received grateful responses from hosts.
"Being able to give to someone immediately, I just know they could use the funds with how devastated they are over there with everything going on," Hartmann said.
This isn't the first time Airbnb has announced initiatives amid political calamities. In August 2021, the company announced a similar measure to supply both short-term and long-term stays for 20,000 Afghan refugees.