Airbnb to take Washington inauguration precautions

US: Following the storming of the Capitol in Washington DC last week, Airbnb is taking extra precautions to prevent further violence in the city ahead of the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden next week [Wednesday 20 January].

The platform had already pledged to ban any insurrectionists involved in the “violent criminal activity” during the Capitol riots on 6 January and carry out full investigations into individual matters by cross referencing the arrest logs with the DC Metro Police.

Now Airbnb and HotelTonight have formally announced that they will be blocking and cancelling reservations to the DC Metro area during the week of the inauguration. This decision was informed by input from the Airbnb and HotelTonight host community, as well as local, state and federal officials.

In a statement issued by the company, Airbnb said: “Today, in response to various local, state and federal officials asking people not to travel to Washington, DC, we are announcing that Airbnb will cancel reservations in the Washington DC metro area during the inauguration week.  Additionally, we will prevent any new reservations in the Washington, D.C. area from being booked during that time by blocking such reservations.

“Guests whose reservations are cancelled will be refunded in full. We also will reimburse hosts, at Airbnb’s expense, the money they would have earned from these cancelled reservations. HotelTonight reservations also will be cancelled.

“Airbnb’s work continues to be informed by inputs from our local host community as well as Washington DC officials, metro police and members of Congress throughout this week. In particular, Mayor Bowser, Governor Hogan and Governor Northam have been clear that visitors should not travel to the DC Metro area for the inauguration.

“Additionally, we are aware of reports emerging yesterday afternoon regarding armed militias and known hate groups that are attempting to travel and disrupt the inauguration.

“We are continuing our work to ensure hate group members are not part of the Airbnb community. As we’ve learned through media or law enforcement sources the names of individuals confirmed to have been responsible for the violent criminal activity at the United States Capitol on January 6, we’ve investigated whether the named individuals have an account on Airbnb

“Through this work, we have identified numerous individuals who are either associated with known hate groups or otherwise involved in the criminal activity at the Capitol Building, and they have been banned from Airbnb’s platform,” it added.

In addition, Airbnb will take precautions including:

  • All US residents will be required to verify their identity before booking a short-term rental by providing official ID issued by the government
  • Running extra background checks on US guest users’ backgrounds at the moment they sign up, under a new “Capitol Safety Plan”
  • Potentially taking legal actions against individuals suspected of planning violent criminal activity or belonging to hate groups that violate the company’s policies
  • Reminding hosts through emails and app notifications to contact Airbnb’s “trained crisis staff” by calling the Urgent Safety Line
  • Offering a neighbour support line for neighbours in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia 24/7

Airbnb added that it would not make any donations to those members of Congress who opposed certifying the Electoral College vote in incoming President Biden’s favour.

For full analysis on what Biden’s election win might mean to the short-term rental industry, follow this link to our feature from November 2020.