An initiative by online rental marketplace Airbnb asking guests to donate money to hosts has been condemned across the internet.

The ‘kindness cards’ scheme drew attention online earlier this week when a Twitter user posted a message from Airbnb asking for a “contribution”.

The Tweet has since been shared over 6,000 times, with hundreds of users criticising the tech company for failing to sympathise with users.

Although the ‘kindness cards’ scheme has gathered interest this week, it actually dates back to April, when the company announced a host of new ways for guests “to show [hosts] appreciation and encouragement”.

Making the announcement on its community blog, Airbnb announced a new virtual card feature for guests to send messages of support to hosts from cancelled travel plans.

“The second part is that guests can attach an optional financial contribution to their card. 100% of the guests’ contribution goes directly to the host,” Airbnb said in the post.

It’s not just guests that are upset by the ‘kindness cards’ initiative.

“Leave our guests alone, and stop going to them with begging bowls in our names, when most of them are probably every bit as strapped for cash as we are,” said a Dublin-based Airbnb host on a company forum.

“Dress it up with your ‘kindness cards’ any way you like, but most right-thinking people will see this for what it is - a sick, cynical attempt by a multi-billion dollar global corporation to get our guests to make up for some of the shortfalls and hardships imposed on us solely by Airbnb's own unilateral and questionably lawful actions,”

Airbnb has since come out and defended the initiative, reinforcing the fact the money goes directly to the hosts.

“There is also the option for a voluntary financial contribution, with no charges from Airbnb, that goes directly to the hosts, more than half of whom say they rely on the additional income from hosting to afford their home,” told Edinburg Live.

A long way to go (and IPO)

As well as causing a stir online, the outrage is also indicative of the precarious financial position the company – which was due to file for an initial public offering in March of this year – now finds itself in.

According to The Information, Airbnb’s operating loss more than doubled to $US306 million in the first quarter of 2019 – months before the pandemic hit.

The company was then hit with more than $US1 bullion in cancelled bookings, causing Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky to announce to staff that revenue for 2020 is forecasted to be less than half of what it was in 2019.

Chesky also revealed Airbnb would be cutting around 25 per cent of its 7,500 staff.

In April, the company offered investors warrants that valued the company at $US18 billion, almost half of the $31 billion it was valued at in 2017.

However, with some travel restrictions lifting, Airbnb is sounding optimistic once more.

In an interview with Fortune last month, Chesky said the company was “absolutely not ruling it out”, referring to the possibility of going public in 2020.

Tech bubble bursting?

It’s not just Airbnb that has struggled amid the pandemic.

With Uber feeling the pinch of lockdown measures and WeWork continuing its downward trajectory, some are predicting a significant tech crash.

“Two decades on from the dot-com collapse there is the likelihood of another crash in the technology sector,” said University of Warwick’s Professor of Practice John Colley.

“As with the build up to the dot-com bubble, an abundance of venture capital funding has fuelled speculation and encouraged investors to make bets on the next Google or Amazon.”