Airbnb and its subsidiary HotelTonight are canceling all reservations booked through them. The bookings they are canceling are for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration week in the Washington, DC, metro area. This is according to the company’s statement, which Airbnb spokesman Ben Breit shared.
The statement said in part: “Today, in response to various local, state and federal officials asking people not to travel to Washington, D.C., we are announcing that Airbnb will cancel reservations in the Washington, D.C. 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.”
Airbnb also said that they came to this decision thanks to the information it received from its host community. The company also received tips from DC officials, Metro Police, and the lawmakers in Congress.
“In particular, Mayor Bowser, Governor Hogan (of Maryland), and Governor Northam (of Virginia) have been clear that visitors should not travel to the D.C. Metro area for the inauguration,” the company’s statement continued.
Airbnb’s decision came after it received tips about reports of emerging armed threats. These threats say that militias and hate groups will possibly attempt to disrupt Biden’s inauguration.
In connection to this, the company still bans people involved in the mobbing of the Capitol last week from using its platform.
Airbnb said, “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.”
Regarding the cancellation, Airbnb promises to fully give refunds for canceled reservations. It will also reimburse rental owners directly for money that they potentially have lost from the canceled reservations.
The Hotels’ Approach
Meanwhile, hotels in DC, while not taking as drastic of an approach, will be implementing safety plans
Hilton properties in DC stand near important sites in the area, such as the White House. The spokesperson for Hilton, Nigel Glennie, said they see such sites as gathering areas where both celebrations and protests may happen.
“It won’t surprise you that our D.C. hotels continuously review their safety and security procedures,” he said.
“We don’t get into the specifics of our security posture publicly,” the Hilton spokesperson said. “But the preparation is always well informed and mindful of current events,” he added.
“The teams at these hotels are very experienced and have a long history of successfully managing through major public events.”
Meanwhile, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts plan to put the safety of their guests and employees first, as per Rob Myers, the spokesperson for Wyndham
“We have provided our hotels with additional security measures to consider,” Myers told USA Today. “we are encouraging them to follow guidance from local authorities.”
On the other hand, along with security, Hyatt emphasized COVID-19 restrictions and protocols that it enforces on hotel property.
Stephen Snart, Hyatt’s spokesperson, said they will ask guests who don’t comply with their policy to leave the premises. They will also give the option to remain “in their guestroom for the duration of their visit.
Why Airbnb Decided to Cancel Reservations
The decisions of hotels to make sure guests and employees are safe are less strict than Airbnb’s. Airbnb’s move to cancel bookings differs from hotels doing so.
“Airbnb is fundamentally different than a hotel in that they are simply a platform, they are not public spaces, they do not have employees, and they do not have the type of debt service that a hotel has,” Cornell University Center for Innovative Hospitality and Employment Relations professor David Sherwyn told USA today.
He added that Airbnb also doesn’t directly have security employees at the rentals they offer. Also, he said the company insures its hosts. Therefore, if something goes wrong, the costs Airbnb will have to pay are high.
Sherwyn said, “In D.C., providers who do not share their home, but instead rent the entire home are limited to a certain number of days per year. The cost to Airbnb is some lost revenue and risk reduction. The cost to hotels are their place in the economy, their employees compensation and their duty to their guests who need to be in town.”
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