World

To support hosts in war-torn Ukraine, thousands are booking Airbnbs with no intention of staying

As Ukraine fights back against Russia's invasion, thousands of people have been booking stays there through Airbnb — with no intentions of actually visiting — as a way to financially support those under siege.

Thousands of Canadians have booked to help Ukrainian hosts in need, company says

John Mitchell of the U.K., left, and Cheryl Andrews of Edmonton are among those booking stays in Ukraine through Airbnb — with no intentions of actually visiting — as a way to financially help Ukrainian hosts amid Russia's invasion of the country. (CBC)

Countries in the midst of a war are not typical destinations for travellers, but that didn't stop Cheryl Andrews of Edmonton from recently booking an Airbnb stay for April in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv — which is currently under siege by invading Russian troops.

But Andrews, like many others who've booked accommodations in Ukraine on the home rental firm, has no intentions of actually visiting.

WATCH | Ukrainian Airbnbs see influx of fake bookings to support hosts:

Ukrainian Airbnbs see influx of fake bookings to support hosts

5 months ago
Duration 2:02
Canadians are among a global army of Airbnb users who are booking fake vacations in Ukraine to help provide financial support to those who own Airbnbs on the ground.

As Ukraine fights back against Russia's invasion, she and others have been booking stays in Ukraine through Airbnb as a way to financially support those under siege.

"I saw somebody say, 'Here's a great way to reach out directly to a person in Ukraine. Not so much give them money but let them know people are hearing this, this is a world-wide issue,'" Andrews told CBC News. 

"I saw somebody else had done it and I thought, 'This is brilliant, I'm going to jump on that.' "

PHOTOS | What's happening in Ukraine on Day 9 of deadly Russian invasion: 

Like Andrews, Krisztián Vajon, based near Budapest in Hungary, heard about the initiative on Twitter and booked his stay just minutes after.

"I was looking [at] the cities which are the most affected, you know, from the Russian invasion," he told CBC News.

He said he was connected with a man named Yuri who thought the booking was fake and tried returning the money.

"I said, 'No, no, don't, it's nothing fake in it.'" said Vajon. "I don't [plan] to obviously go there next weekend ... and then he was super happy about it."

Nearly 3,000 bookings made by Canadians

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky announced on Friday the company is joining others in suspending operations in Russia and its ally Belarus over the invasion of Ukraine. Countries, like Canada, have also slapped major sanctions on those countries and some of their institutions.

Chesky on Friday tweeted that from March 2 to 3, more than 61,000 bookings have been made in Ukraine. Of the bookings, the company told CBC News nearly 3,000 were made by Canadians. It also said it would temporarily waive guest and host fees in Ukraine.

"That's $1.9 M going to hosts in need," Chesky wrote. "Such a cool idea from our community."

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky announced on Friday the company is joining others in suspending operations in Russia and its ally Belarus over the invasion of Ukraine. (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images)

One such host is Andriy Fedoriv in Polyanytsya, in Western Ukraine.

Speaking through a translator, he told CBC News he initially felt surprise when he started receiving bookings from places like Estonia, Finland and Italy.

Now, he feels immense gratitude but adds it would be more useful if people gave helmets and body armour to those on the front lines of the war.

More than a million people have fled Ukraine to neighbouring countries since the invasion, and those still in the country face shortages of food, water and electricity along with daily bombardments.

John Mitchell of the U.K. hopes his booking in Odesa can help the host during these difficult times, and hopes to visit the southern port city in the "not too distant future" — in hopefully better times.

"We do a lot of holidays on Airbnb," Mitchell told CBC News of himself and his wife. "I thought it just seemed like a very simple and effective way to do something very, very small."

WATCH | What happened in Ukraine in week 2 of Russia's assault: 

What happened in Ukraine in week 2 of Russia’s assault

5 months ago
Duration 10:20
Russian forces attacked key cities in Ukraine as more than a million refugees fled to safety, and world leaders punished Vladimir Putin with further sanctions. Here’s a look at the fight in Ukraine from Feb. 28 to March 4.

"We did the usual sort of message [to the host] to say we're making this booking but obviously we're not coming along we just want to get some money to you," he said.

Mitchell shared with CBC News a screenshot of the host's reply. It read:

"Thank you so much for your support. I can't hold my emotions inside … Thank you from me, from my family, and from all Ukraine."

(John Mitchell)

With files from CBC's Georgie Smyth

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now