Taiwanese Student Nearly Ends Up HOMELESS After AirBnB Cancels Booking Over Coronavirus Fears

Taiwanese Student Nearly Ends Up HOMELESS After AirBnB Cancels Booking Over Coronavirus Fears

February 13, 2020
A Taiwanese student was almost left homeless after landing in the U.K. and finding out that her Airbnb booking had been canceled over fears that she might be carrying the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV or COVID-19).
Louise Hsin-Yuan Peng, 31, was looking forward to good accommodations when she arrived in the U.K. on Feb. 1 to work on a three-month research project.
Peng has been living in the U.S. and frequented Tokyo last year. Image via Louise Hsin-Yuan Peng
However, as she was on the way to her Airbnb, Peng learned that its hosts had canceled her reservation “with a note reeking of xenophobia and racism.”
“They were concerned that I might spread the coronavirus to them ‘and their dog’ simply because I am Taiwanese,” the Yale student wrote on Facebook.
She added that she had neither visited China nor contacted anyone from Hubei, the provincial epicenter of the outbreak.
“It would have been acceptable if they had let me know before I got on a plane. But, instead, they thought that sending me such a message minutes before my supposed check-in was an okay thing to do. And AirBnB allowed this to happen.”
Subscribe to
NextShark's Newsletter

A daily dose of Asian America's essential stories, in under 5 minutes.

Get our collection of Asian America's most essential stories to your inbox daily for free.

Unsure? Check out our Newsletter Archive.

With nowhere to go and no phone data, Peng had to rely on public Wi-Fi at a train station to contact friends who may be of help.
Shortly after, she managed to take refuge in an expensive hotel, but could not afford to stay any longer.
Peng studies comparative literature at Yale University. Image via Louise Hsin-Yuan Peng
Fortunately, Peng found help in a friend who offered to accommodate her until later this month.
“If I hadn’t been able to find a friend who was able to help me, I would have been in a dangerous situation, in a strange country, with no access to the internet or phone data, and completely homeless,” she told HuffPost U.K. “I’ve since heard of other Taiwanese people who have had their accommodation cancelled for similar reasons, although not quite as last minute as this. But it is clearly happening to other people and it is completely unfair.”
Peng has since contacted Airbnb to report her experience, which left her feeling “racially discriminated against.” A spokesperson responded with acknowledgment and expressed regret over the incident.
The company also offered to refund and reimburse all of her expenses incurred as a result of the cancellation — including an Uber, hotel and a second AirBnB reservation — as well as a $500 coupon for future use.
“We take cancellation issues seriously and rigorously enforce a non-discrimination policy. We investigate all reports of discrimination and take appropriate action when necessary, including up to removal of users from the platform,” the company said in a statement.
“Cancellations related to the novel coronavirus outbreak need to observe our internal policies, local and international official guidelines and recommendations.”
View post on Twitter
It is understood that Airbnb has already communicated with the hosts who canceled Peng’s booking. “I would like to thank everyone who has given me support and help,” Peng wrote in an update on Feb. 11.
As of this writing, the U.K. has confirmed nine cases of COVID-19. The ninth patient contracted the virus in mainland China, according to BBC.
Feature Images via Louise Hsin-Yuan Peng
      Carl Samson

      Carl Samson is a Senior Editor for NextShark




      Many people might not know this, but NextShark is a small media startup that runs on no outside funding or loans, and with no paywalls or subscription fees, we rely on help from our community and readers like you.

      Everything you see today is built by Asians, for Asians to help amplify our voices globally and support each other. However, we still face many difficulties in our industry because of our commitment to accessible and informational Asian news coverage.

      We hope you consider making a contribution to NextShark so we can continue to provide you quality journalism that informs, educates, and inspires the Asian community. Even a $1 contribution goes a long way. Thank you for supporting NextShark and our community.

      © 2023 NextShark, Inc. All rights reserved.