Man behind Ukrainian Airbnb bookings scheme explains how it helps
The Independent

An Instagram influencer has called on people to donate to Ukrainians by booking Airbnb rentals in the country in a bid to benefit Ukrainians directly.

New Yorker Tommy Marcus runs the Quentin Quarantino page on social media, set up in 2020. The 26-year-old said the idea to donate to Ukrainians via the accommodation app had originally come from one of his followers on social media.

Since sharing the idea on social media, he said Ukrainian Airbnb hosts have sent touching messages of gratitude to those who are donating in this way.

One person messaged a host: “I wish the world was different, so I can actually stay in your beautiful country, unfortunately I cannot stay. Please use these funds to whatever you need. I wish I could do more for Ukraine. SLAVA UKRAINE!!”

The host responded: “You can’t even imagine how pleased we are to hear that we are not alone, tears in our eyes. I am very grateful to you for your support in this difficult time for us and all of Ukraine. Thank you very much.”

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Another host with a property in Irpin, next to Kyiv in northern Ukraine, said they would donate the funds to charity and allow those who lost their homes to stay in the apartment for free.

Others have also caught on to the novel way of donating to Ukrainians and have circulated the idea on social media.

Airbnb is currently waiving both host and guest fees for bookings in Ukraine.

Marcus told PA: “I certainly did not foresee it going so viral… so many of my followers have told me ‘I got this message (of gratitude from a Ukrainian) and then immediately started crying’.

“And that’s maybe not something that happens when you give 20 dollars (£15) to charity. That’s not to say that that money doesn’t go as far when you give it to a charity, but there’s definitely that emotional element that’s unique about this, which I think is probably a very big driving factor and why it was so viral.”

He warned, however, that people should check the Airbnb listing before booking to ensure they know who would receive the money.

“The main thing that was shared when this first started to go viral was to make sure that it was an individual person, rather than a company who might own a bunch of flats across the city… also seeing that they have a history, they have reviews.”

Marcus also said that donations via Airbnb should not replace supporting efforts from existing charities.

“This is just another really nice thing you can do. It’s going to make someone really happy and hopefully have an impact down there. But at the end of the day, you should also be giving money to charity, wherever you see fit.”

A spokesperson for Airbnb told PA: “We are so humbled by the inspiring generosity of our community during this moment of crisis. Airbnb is temporarily waiving guest and host fees on bookings in Ukraine at this time.

“We also encourage anyone interested in getting involved with Airbnb to go to airbnb.org/help-ukraine, and support Airbnb’s initiative to provide housing to refugees fleeing Ukraine, by becoming a host or donating. To date, we have seen an overwhelming response to this effort, with more than 357,000 visitors to this page.”

Airbnb has offered free, short-term housing to up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine. Since the invasion began, more than one million Ukrainians have fled - marking the swiftest exodus of refugees this century.

Airbnb has also suspended all operations in Russia and Belarus.

With reporting by PA.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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