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How Airbnb, hotels are responding to the coronavirus outbreak

The travel industry is responding to reduced bookings, increased anxieties, and extra precautions relating to the coronavirus pandemic. Airlines have slashed ticket prices, Amtrak has waived fees, and the hotel industry as well as Airbnb are detailing cancellation policies and enhanced cleaning procedures.

Marriott International, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Hotels by Hilton, and more are waiving cancellation fees for hotel stays through March 31 booked by guests traveling to or from countries such as China, South Korea, and Italy. Encore Boston Harbor in Everett announced on Tuesday that it is sanitizing high-traffic public areas with increased frequency and taking the temperature of guests who exhibit symptoms of illness, such as coughing, sneezing, and sweating.

“With their permission, we are discretely taking their temperature with a non-contact, digital thermometer,” Encore Boston Harbor wrote. “Guests with a temperature of 100 degrees or higher will be asked to leave our property and encouraged to seek medical attention for further screening or treatment.”

Marriott also detailed how it is stepping up its cleaning procedures in a press release posted on Tuesday. The Boston Globe published a detailed report Tuesday about the Biogen meeting at Mariott Boston Long Wharf, where approximately 175 people were potentially exposed to the virus in late February. So far, 70 of the 92 confirmed cases in Massachusetts have been connected to that meeting.

“We take standards for hygiene and cleanliness very seriously and are taking steps to ensure the safety of our guests and associates,” Marriott wrote.

Marriott officials said its crews are cleaning and disinfecting more often and focusing on elevator buttons, door handles, front desk counters, public bathrooms, room keys, and “high touch items” in guest rooms. Marriott employees are also attending an “enhanced COVID-19 awareness training,” according to the release.

Travelers booking Airbnbs will now have increased flexibility for “more peace of mind when booking,” Airbnb wrote in a press release posted Tuesday.

The company is offering a “More Flexible Reservations” system, which is “a suite of tools and programs we are developing to help hosts and guests navigate uncertainty and meet their needs to cancel or postpone their hosting and travel plans,” according to Airbnb in the release. Here’s what the system will do:

  • Travelers can filter their searches by type of cancellation policy: flexible, moderate, or strict.
  • Airbnb will reward flexible hosts by increasing visibility for those listings and waiving its standard 3 percent host fee on new reservations for those listings through June 1.
  • Guests who book by June 1 and need to cancel who are not due a refund of the Airbnb guest service fee will receive that fee as a travel coupon that can be used on a future trip.


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