Livia De Felice, who owns two vacation rental properties and manages four others across Italy, has seen all of her bookings for March canceled, leaving her “extremely worried,” she said.
Austin Mao, who hosts 2,000 guests a month in his Las Vegas network of mansions, has slashed prices on the properties by 10 percent and plans to keep cutting as visitors dwindle.
People behind seven million rental listings on Airbnb, the home-sharing and rental site are now feeling the brunt of the coronavirus fallout. With travel screeching to a halt in many places to limit the outbreak’s spread, the problems facing Airbnb and other online travel sites, such as Booking.com and VRBO, have rapidly escalated.
The toll that the virus is taking on the $688 billion online travel industry is shared by airlines and big hotel chains. But unlike the Marriotts and Hiltons or carriers like United and JetBlue, many online travel sites are underpinned by listings from individual homeowners and smaller hotel operators, who typically have fewer resources to withstand a prolonged slump.
The pain is already widespread. Booking.com, which has 6.3 million listings for “alternative accommodations,” including apartments and vacation homes, pulled its financial forecast on Monday. The company said worsening conditions made it impossible to “reliably quantify” the impact of the virus on its business, which also sells hotel stays and plane tickets.
Expedia Group, which owns VRBO, Hotels.com and more than a dozen other travel sites, has said it expected a $30 million to $40 million hits to operating profit in the first quarter. The company recently laid off 12 percent of its workforce, or more than 3,000 employees, which it said was part of a previously planned restructuring.
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