[Credit: Airbnb]

Airbnb issues update on work to fight discrimination

US: Airbnb has issued an update on its work to fight discrimination and build inclusion among its community of guests and hosts.

The update, published on Airbnb’s website, includes the first data from Project Lighthouse, an initiative launched by the company in partnership with online racial justice organisation Color of Change in 2020 to uncover and address disparities in how people of colour experience the Airbnb platform. In addition, Airbnb discussed how it was using the findings to guide its work to fight discrimination and make the platform “more open and inclusive”.

It also follows the publication of a comprehensive audit of the Airbnb platform led by civil rights leader Laura W. Murphy in 2019.

Through Project Lighthouse, Airbnb measured the rate at which guests in the United States from different perceived racial groups have their reservations confirmed after they click ‘Reserve’, known as the Booking Success Rate. While the report observed that  guests from all perceived racial groups had a Booking Success Rates above 90 per cent, it found that the widest disparity exists between guests perceived to be black and guests perceived to be white – on one hand, guests perceived to be black were able to successfully book the stay of their choice 91.4 per cent of the time, compared to guests perceived to be white having a Booking Success Rate of 94.1 per cent.

The company’s analysis determined the Booking Success Rates, calculated through a combination of Instant Book and Request to Book reservations, for perceived racial groups as the following:

  • Gguests perceived to be “Asian” – 93.4 per cent
  • Guests perceived to be “black” – 91.4 per cent
  • Guests perceived to be Latino / Hispanic – 94.4 per cent
  • Guests perceived to be white – 94.1 per cent
  • Guests perceived to be other / unknown – 93.2 per cent

The rates were based on a random sample of 750,000 reservations requests over the course of 2021.

Following the Project Lighthouse update, Airbnb said that it would be introducing a series of platform and product “interventions” to improve the Booking Success Rate for guests of all races and backgrounds.

  • To increase trust between hosts and guests throughout the reservation process, Airbnb is exploring ways to enhance guest and host profiles to highlight information that can foster more connection, as well as analysing the impact that other features may have on the opportunity to create bias.
  • Airbnb is making more people eligible to use its Instant Book feature, which allows guests to book a listing without requiring hosts to approve a reservation request.
  • It will now be easier for all guests to receive a review when they travel, resulting in more reviews, which Airbnb expects will have a positive impact on black and Latino / Hispanic guests from now on.
  • Airbnb will expand its ability to analyse reservation rejections to improve its policies and products, as well as fight discrimination.
  • A number of inclusion-focused programs and content will be rolled out next year, on top of Airbnb’s Guide to Inclusive Hosting that was published this year and includes resources to help hosts welcome guests of all abilities, genders and backgrounds.

Airbnb co-founder and CEO, Brian Chesky, said: “Airbnb is built on trust, and we will continue to innovate and design new products and initiatives that increase acceptance and combat bias. Important insights, including data generated through Project Lighthouse, will drive our work to make Airbnb a place where everyone feels welcome.

“We can’t do this work alone, and our partners have given us incredibly valuable feedback. I’m deeply grateful for their insight,” he added.

Rashad Robinson, president of Color Of Change, said: “Racial audits work, as long as corporations make the changes necessary to address what they expose. Six years after Airbnb’s first racial audit, and two years after Color Of Change negotiated Project Lighthouse, Airbnb is now a leading example of what it looks like to back up the rhetoric of racial justice with the policy, practice and personnel that can prevent rampant racial discrimination.”

Laura W. Murphy, president of Laura Murphy & Associates and senior adviser for Airbnb’s anti-discrimination work, said: “I am excited that Airbnb is embracing transparency by using this report to share this data with the public. Too often companies find discrimination problems and want to bury them in secrecy, but since 2016, Airbnb has been committed to taking action and being straightforward about both its progress and its challenges.

“By sharing the key insights it has learned through Project Lighthouse and how the company is putting them into action, Airbnb is once again demonstrating its genuine commitment to fighting discrimination,” she added.

As part of its continued work against discrimination, Airbnb will also remove listings of any properties that previously housed enslaved people, following a number of incidents this year which led to TikTok videos of slave home listings going viral.

Airbnb added that the changes it is implementing from the Project Lighthouse analysis will soon be implemented globally to make the platform more equal and inclusive for its entire community.

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