Ottawa Airbnb manager sees a spike in business during COVID-19 pandemic

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“It was like doomsday where everyone was cancelling.”

Ottawa Airbnb property manager Lisa Miall describes the scene when the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a rush of cancellations at her rental properties.

Miall says she was forced to issue refunds for dozens of bookings at the 46 properties she manages.

But she says business quickly picked up again when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians travelling and living abroad to come home.

“Within a 24 to 48 hour period, I was just inundated with Airbnb requests,” said Miall.

Diplomats, health care workers and travellers have turned to Airbnb for a place to self-isolate during the pandemic.

After work on a cruise ship came to a halt, George Kassis travelled to Ottawa to stay with family while off the job.

“I usually stay with my father and just to be on the safe side I thought I’d get an Airbnb. It’s costing me a lost of money but it’s better than getting someone sick,” said Kassis.

BNN Bloomberg had reported the San Francisco-based Airbnb company recorded a loss before the pandemic forced travel to stop.

Airbnb’s new ‘extenuating circumstances policy’ has likely added to the financial blow.

“Guests who cancel will receive a full refund, and hosts can cancel without charge or impact to their Superhost status. Airbnb will refund all service feeds for covered cancellations,” its website states.

Realtors in Ottawa told CTV News Ottawa, vacancy rates were low in the Capital before the pandemic, thanks to a thriving economy.

However, with real estate fluctuating by the hour, March’s numbers will likely project a different picture.