Airbnb has announced it is blocking bookings for most British customers following an increase in the number of so-called “isolation retreats”.
Even though lockdown measures are in force across the country, some Airbnb hosts have been accused of being “incredibly irresponsible” by advertising their properties as a way to escape from the coronavirus pandemic.
Some of the listings were described as a “perfect place for isolation and security”, while others were promoted as being deep cleaned with “virus-killing chemicals”.
The home rental company will now only allow key workers to stay in properties while the nationwide restrictions are in place.
Airbnb director Patrick Robinson said: “Restricting bookings on Airbnb to key workers and other essential stays will allow hosts to continue supporting frontline workers while following government guidance.”
Bookings were being blocked from Thursday morning until 18 April at the earliest – and if the government extends the lockdown as expected, the ban will continue.
The clampdown comes ahead of the Easter weekend. High temperatures are forecast, prompting concerns that some Britons may ignore the ongoing advice to stay at home.
Last week, Airbnb stopped private rooms in shared houses from being rented out, and disabled an “instant book” function for whole properties.
Under the government’s measures, hotels and other accommodation providers have been ordered to close unless they are providing services to key workers or vulnerable groups.
The company recently launched a tool enabling hosts to provide free rooms for health workers.
When the controversial Airbnb listings emerged, tourism minister Nigel Huddleston had said: “Our advice is clear. Essential travel does not include holidays, leisure travel and visits to second homes, and people must remain in their primary residence.
“It is incredibly irresponsible, and dangerous, for some property owners to be marketing themselves as ‘isolation retreats’. We are writing to companies today to remind them of their responsibilities at this time.
“As soon as it is safe to do so we will be encouraging people to book a great British holiday and show our support to the UK’s travel industry.”
Popular holiday destinations across the UK have been urging people to stay away, amid concerns that an influx of visitors could put a strain on supermarkets and health services.