Airbnb, COVID-19 Risk and Lockdowns: Local and Global Evidence

70 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2020 Last revised: 2 Dec 2020

See all articles by Maggie Hu

Maggie Hu

The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Adrian D. Lee

Deakin University - Department of Finance (Property and Real Estate); Financial Research Network (FIRN)

Date Written: November 28, 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered an unprecedented crisis in the tourism industry. We study the impact of COVID-19 on global Airbnb booking activity regarding three factors: the initial Wuhan lockdown, local COVID-19 cases, and local lockdowns. Using reviews and cancellations as proxies for Airbnb bookings, we find that local lockdowns result in a 57.8% fall in global booking activities, with an 8.8% fall after the Wuhan lockdown. Every doubling of newly infected cases is associated with a 4.16% fall in bookings. The sensitivity of bookings to COVID-19 decreases with geographic distance to Wuhan, and increases with government stringency of lockdown policies as well as human mobility within a market. Using London, United Kingdom as a case study, we find private rooms experience over 20% more cancellations than entire homes, consistent with host fears of infection. On the supply side, we find stable listings volume and lower booking price. Hosts charge an infection risk premium of 5.2% for letting private rooms relative to entire homes.We also document hosts adopt a dynamic pricing strategy where dates in the near future have deeper discounts than those in more distant future, and professional hosts adjust prices to local COVID-19 cases more aggressively than non-professionals. Our study provides insights for hosts and policymakers to formulate recovery plans in a post COVID-19 economy.

Keywords: Airbnb, travel activity, COVID-19, lockdown, confinement orders, social distancing

JEL Classification: R30, L83, L85

Suggested Citation

Hu, Maggie and Lee, Adrian D., Airbnb, COVID-19 Risk and Lockdowns: Local and Global Evidence (November 28, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Maggie Hu (Contact Author)

The Chinese University of Hong Kong ( email )

Cheng Yu Tung Building
12 Chak Cheung Street
Hong Kong, N.T.
Hong Kong


Adrian D. Lee

Deakin University - Department of Finance (Property and Real Estate) ( email )

70 Elgar Road
Melbourne, VIC 3125

Financial Research Network (FIRN)

C/- University of Queensland Business School
St Lucia, 4071 Brisbane


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