Seriously. Learned about this today from an article at NPR:
Some people have found a novel way to get money to Ukrainians as their country is under attack from Russia: booking immediate Airbnb stays they don't intend to use.Airbnb hosts are paid 24 hours after a guest checks in, so people abroad are booking stays and letting hosts know that it's a gesture of solidarity, and they don't plan to appear.The idea spread over the last few days, and Airbnb is waiving all host and guest fees in Ukraine for now. On Wednesday and Thursday, more than 61,000 nights were booked in Ukraine from around the world — bookings that grossed nearly $2 million, Airbnb tells NPR.While this phenomenon appears to have developed in a grassroots manner, Airbnb also has its own initiative to provide housing to those in need. The company will offer short-term housing for free for up to 100,000 of those fleeing Ukraine. People can go to Airbnb.org and sign up to host refugees or donate to the cause.
I'm going to look into this this weekend. Certainly if a Ukrainian family depended on renting rooms to supplement their income, that source of support must have vanished during the war. I much prefer to assist people as directly as possible rather than through large aid organizations. I've never personally used Airbnb, so I'd appreciate any suggestions from readers re avoiding scams.
Addendum: One of my friends has already "booked" a week's stay and received this reply from the host -
Followup: My friend received this message from Airbnb several days later:
It looks like you might have booked a reservation in Ukraine to support a Host. We’re reaching out because at least one of your reservations has been canceled, and we want to share more about what’s happening.Why your reservation was canceled. Your reservation was canceled because it was booked with a listing that is no longer able to receive payments.
That could reflect something as prosaic as an inability to access a financial account - or it could be more ominous.