In the past Airbnb has faced controversy due to instances of hosts controlling their own bookings and then refusing to accept or cancelling a booking due to the race or ethnicity of the guest. Over the past few years they have looked to create a more diverse workforce. In June Airbnb’s Chief Marketing Officer, Jonathan Mildenhall, tweeted a note to creatives asking for women and “creatives of color” to meet with him at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
However just last month, an Airbnb host was penalised for racial discrimination under an agreement between the rental website and the California department of fair employment and housing (DFEH). The host, who was later banned by Airbnb, had canceled a woman’s reservation making a racist remark and was ordered to pay $5,000 in damages.
Airbnb have also launched a partnership with civil rights group National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to expand its services to minority groups.
Director and actor Danny Glover has started working with Airbnb in an attempt to overcome suggestions that the platform is discriminatory. He awknowledges these problems by stating:
” I know Airbnb has had its own share of challenges in this arena — but working with them, I’ve seen first-hand how committed they are to getting it right. And I have been incredibly heartened to see the resources, desire, and drive they are directing towards ensuring that their service is used fairly and inclusively.”
Danny views Airbnb as having potential to bring together people of diverse ways of life:
“Airbnb also allows communities traditionally underserved by the tourism industry to reap the financial rewards of travel, with the share of Airbnb bookings in communities of color in some major cities exceeding the share of local hotel rooms that can be found in them.
Yet, Airbnb’s potential benefits also go beyond finances as the service can bring people of diverse origins and walks of life together in a context geared toward hospitality and sharing. The bonds that can form in these interactions are indispensable to the greater project of breaking down the social barriers that make all forms of discrimination so intractable in the first place. These spontaneous interpersonal relationships are the laboratories for transforming relationships among people; the sites at which we begin to implement our highest ideals in practical yet poignant ways.”
“African American, Latinx, and other communities of color are some of Airbnb’s fastest growing host communities in the U.S, which is a step in the right direction. But the underlying housing market is still fundamentally unfair — and, disappointingly, even as we have made progress in other areas, the Airbnb community can sometimes reflect the broader discriminatory realities of present-day American society.”
Danny also tells of Airbnb’s new relationship with NAACP:
“Airbnb and the NAACP have also established a partnership to increase the participation of hosts of color and increase tourism to neighborhoods of color, to diversify Airbnb’s workforce, and to commit a share of Airbnb’s revenue to supporting civil rights initiatives.
Working with partners like the NAACP, we will host information sessions and run online and offline campaigns aimed at engaging the people who can benefit from home sharing the most. As an advisor, I will be on the ground doing whatever I can to promote these efforts — participating in trainings and events, working with local organizations and faith-based leaders, and getting to know more of the hosts who empower our communities.
The fight for fairer housing won’t be easy — and it won’t be over anytime soon. But you can be part of making a difference right now. So I hope you’ll consider investing in your future, signing up to host on Airbnb, and helping us work towards housing equality — one listing at a time.
And I’ll be working closely with everyone at Airbnb to help more people of color benefit from home sharing.”
It’s good to see any company, especially one who has had issues with diversity in the past looking for ways to improve themselves.