More than a few travel plans have been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, and Airbnb is acknowledging that with a broader cancellation policy. The service is expanding its worldwide Extenuating Circumstances coverage to allow no-penalty cancellations for stays and Experiences made on or before March 14th, with check-in dates between March 14th and April 14th. This won't cover mainland China, where normal business is expected to resume on April 1st.
The company added that it was aware this could hurt hosts who depend on Airbnb for income, but believed it had to "find a balance" between those hosts and supporting the "well-being" of guests.
To some degree, Airbnb didn't have much choice. With many countries discouraging travel or in some cases issuing temporary bans (such as the US' 30-day bans on Europe and the UK), there was pressure on Airbnb to be more accommodating. Why make people pay for cancellations when they're either unable to fly or unwilling to put themselves at risk? If Airbnb didn't widen its cancellation policy, it risked a backlash that could hurt its long-term success.