Airbnb names Amazon’s Carney as global head of policy

US: Airbnb has announced the appointment of Jay Carney, senior vice president of global corporate affairs at Amazon and former White House press secretary for President Barack Obama, as its new global head of policy and communications.

Reporting directly to CEO Brian Chesky, Carney will serve on Airbnb’s executive team and will be tasked with leading on policy, enhancing communications and addressing regulatory concerns in his new role to “strengthen” the communities in which the platform has a presence.

He will fill a role that was vacated by Chris Lehane earlier this year, who left to join a cryptocurrency startup.

In his seven-year tenure at Amazon, Carney held the company’s first-ever role of senior vice president of global corporate affairs and was responsible for growing the firm’s headcount from two dozen employees to around 250, strengthening relationships with politicians through donations and site tours, reminding them about Amazon’s contributions to economic growth, and resisting US senators who had criticised Amazon over its reported workplace conditions and tax payments.

Carney also directed Amazon’s investments into community projects and initiatives, including disaster responses, humanitarian relief for refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, and educational programmes for children and young adults from under-represented communities, as part of his overarching role in policy and public relations.

Prior to his stint at Amazon, he worked as a journalist for TIME Magazine, before serving as communications director for Joe Biden [at the time of his vice presidency], and then as press secretary for President Obama between 2011 and 2014.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said: “Jay has worked at the highest levels of both government and technology, serving as a strategic counsellor to the president, and at one of the largest tech companies in the world. When you combine that with the two decades he spent on the ground as a journalist, he brings a deep understanding of the needs of multiple stakeholders.

“Jay is also a passionate advocate for community engagement, and is committed to ensuring that Airbnb is a force for good. He’s the perfect person to lead policy and communications at Airbnb,” he added.

In addition to his work at Amazon, Carney holds a position on the boards of the Urban Institute and Human Rights First respectively.

Carney said: “The potential for travel to promote economic and social good has never been greater. I’m thrilled to be joining Airbnb to help guide its work to connect communities and people through travel, drive economic participation, and help us discover that while our differences are real, they are overwhelmed by our similarities.”

The timing of Carney’s hiring cannot be underestimated, given Airbnb’s growing investment in lobbying policymakers in recent years, which has only accelerated since the Covid-19 pandemic and the company going public via an IPO [initial public offering] at the end of 2020.

According to files seen by Reuters, Airbnb recently lobbied on digital services taxes, data privacy, housing policy, tourism and refugees in a report filed to the US Congress.

Furthermore, Airbnb’s business activities have been scrutinised in the likes of China and Russia. Airbnb will shutter its domestic tourism business in China on Saturday 30 July as a result of the country’s strict lockdowns and Covid-19 restrictions, and the company was recently sanctioned with a fine of two million roubles [$37,700] in Russia for alleged data storage violations.

Carney will take up his new role at Airbnb in September and will be based in Washington, DC.