SAN ANTONIO – Melody Goeken booked a five-night stay in the capital of war-ravaged Ukraine for next week. She has no intention of going.
“This was a way I felt I could put cash in someone’s pocket,” she said.
She logged on to Airbnb and searched for a private individual host rather than a corporation. She booked with a man named Baris in Kyiv.
“I followed up with an email to him to please donate those five nights to refugees, or if they are not comfortable with that, they were welcome to keep the money to use for their family,” Goeken said.
Booking on the platform has become a grassroots wave of generosity that’s caught fire on social media. It’s viewed as a way to gift funds fast and personally.
Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky tweeted that in just 48 hours last week, more than 61,000 nights had been booked in Ukraine and that nearly $2 million would be going to hosts in need.
“I can just imagine how they are living and how afraid they are,” Goeken said. “And really, I paid $22 a night, which is nothing. I would have spent that much going out to lunch.”
Baris responded to Goeken’s email thanking her for her kindness, adding a heart emoji.
Airbnb is waiving fees on all bookings in Ukraine so the hosts maximize income.
The company’s non-profit side Airbnb.org is also working to help people around the world host refugees in spare rooms.