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Airbnb unveils new cleaning protocols in bid to revive bookings

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Washington (AFP)

Airbnb announced new protocols Monday for cleaning and sanitizing its listed properties in an effort to reassure travelers and revive bookings for the home-sharing platform, which is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

The initiative set to launch in May calls for "enhanced procedures and guidance on how to clean every room in a home," and a certification program to identify properties meeting the new standards.

Airbnb said it was establishing the new safety policy based on guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other experts in the field, amid signs of an easing of anti-virus restrictions in some countries.

"As governments handle the health crisis and begin to review restrictions in advance of reopening their communities for travel, at Airbnb we are working hard to support our community and prepare for the future of travel, focused on health and prevention," the company said in a statement.

"The host cleaning protocol will include specific information on COVID-19 prevention, such as the use of personal protective equipment, like masks and gloves for hosts or their cleaners, as well as disinfectants that are approved by regulatory authorities."

The new standards will include a 24-hour waiting period between occupancies.

Hosts unable to meet the new protocol may instead opt for a "booking buffer" of 72 hours during which time no reservations will be allowed.

The tourism industry as a whole is taking a massive hit from the deadly global pandemic.

Airbnb, one of the pillars of the "sharing economy," has apparently shelved plans for a share offering this year, and raised $1 billion in new equity to ride out the crisis.

The San Francisco start-up has also agreed to reimburse hosts some $250 million for virus-related cancellations.

Airbnb said it hopes the new protocols will help contribute to a rebound in the troubled tourism sector.

"Although risk in travel can never be fully eliminated, and the science is still evolving, this initiative is designed to support and protect our stakeholders," the company said.

"Guests will be able to search for and easily identify Airbnb listings that meet their needs and expectations and are part of the program. Hosts will have access to expert-backed cleaning educational materials and will be supported to show that they take cleanliness and prevention seriously."

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