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On Jan. 6, protestors stormed the U.S. Capitol, causing injuries to dozens of police officers and a handful of tragic deaths. And now, with the FBI warning of more armed protests being planned for the Washington, D.C. area, Airbnb (NASDAQ: ABNB) isn't taking any chances. Instead, it's canceling all bookings for Washington, D.C. during the week of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, which is set to occur on Jan. 20.
Travelers were already being asked not to flock to the D.C. area for the inauguration due to coronavirus-related concerns. With the pandemic raging and vaccines only first starting to roll out, cramming streets and local businesses with people is a potential recipe for disaster. But in light of the events that took place last week at the Capital and the warnings being released about upcoming protests, Airbnb is choosing to be cautious.
Hosts and guests will be made whole
Airbnb has made it clear that it's looking out for the best interests of its guests in canceling bookings. As such, it's refunding all canceled reservations in full. Not only that, but it will also be reimbursing hosts with the money they would've earned from those canceled reservations, so D.C. property owners won't have to lose out on revenue.
Of course, travelers who really want to be in D.C. next week may be out of luck after having their Airbnb reservations pulled. Many D.C.-area hotels reached full capacity for inauguration week back in November, so finding a last-minute place to stay could prove challenging.
Local businesses stand to get hurt
While an influx of travelers is still expected in and around Washington, D.C. for the presidential inauguration, losing out on throngs of Airbnb guests is a blow to local businesses. Establishments like restaurants and retailers have been struggling immensely ever since the pandemic began last March, and fewer people in town means taking in less revenue. That's a bad thing, because if businesses remain starved for revenue, they're apt to start closing, leaving commercial landlords with vacancies to fill and lost rent to compensate for.
Of course, a single week-long tourism boom won't necessarily be enough to save hard-hit businesses from going under -- especially with strict capacity limits still in place for restaurants in particular. But losing out on Airbnb guests is still a blow.
Thankfully, the hit is limited to local businesses, not Airbnb hosts themselves, many of whom have seen their own revenue decline in the course of the pandemic. While things could turn around later in the year as coronavirus vaccines become widely available, we're still months away from seeing a real turning point in the pandemic. For the time being, local businesses need all the revenue and support they can get.
Lawmakers recently passed a second coronavirus relief bill that includes a follow-up round of PPP loan funding. While that aid may be enough to save some small businesses, there's a good chance a large number will inevitably fold before the pandemic comes to an end.
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