By Freddie Allen (Editor-In-Chief, NNPA Newswire)
Airbnb, the housing marketplace that connects travelers with hosts in 65,000 cities and 191 countries worldwide, is now on a mission to increase awareness about the company’s economic benefits in communities of color.
It’s part of an ongoing effort to increase diversity and eliminate discrimination on the platform that launched during the Great Recession.
In 2015, the company came under fire when Harvard researchers reported widespread discrimination by Airbnb hosts.
“Real Airbnb users of color said they weren’t surprised,” SmarterTravel.com reported. “Black users shared stories of repeated cancellations and failed booking attempts, using #AirbnbWhileBlack on social media.”
Janaye Ingram, the director of national partnerships for Airbnb, said that since those revelations were made public, the company recruited former Attorney General Eric Holder and Laura Murphy, the director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, as consultants to examine the claims of discrimination.
The home-share rental platform implemented a “Community Commitment” pledge and an “Open Doors” policy, which allows anyone who feels like they’ve been discriminated against to issue a claim to the company.
“We will rebook guests immediately to another listing, begin investigating the claim of discrimination and remove the host from the community,” if the claim is proven to be true, said Ingram.
Ingram continued: “Racism exists in this world, but the company is striving to do everything that it can to prevent anyone from being discriminated against for their disability, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. We’re continuing that work and it’s a lot of work, but we have a commitment to do it.”
Actor and humanitarian Danny Glover, who joined the campaign to highlight Airbnb’s success stories in communities of color, said that, “If we have an ally, if we have a company that is willing to be a part of the world that we all want to see, it’s important that we engage ourselves with that process.”
Glover continued: “[Airbnb] understands the position that they are in as a responsible company and as responsible citizens, as well. If [Airbnb] is willing to stand up and face those challenges in a way in which I think they’re capable of, then something special will happen here.”
Glover said that he’s met African American and Latinx Airbnb hosts that were able to make ends meet, help pay for college tuition and save for retirement; the hosts are also forming new bonds and communities for support.
Ingram said that the platform allows hosts to set their own rates and keep 97 percent of what they earn from their listings.
“Our typical hosts earns about $6,100 a year,” said Ingram. “Imagine having $6,100 extra dollars in your bank account; imagine what that means for your life, what that means for your family, what that means for your community.”
Airbnb hosts are starting to pop-up in communities, where there are no hotels, she added.
“Now, you’re bringing in tourists, who are frequenting these businesses and restaurants and becoming patrons of these businesses, so it’s an overall benefit for the community,” said Ingram.
This is a new brand of entrepreneurship, Ingram said.
“It’s important for people to understand that some Airbnb hosts are becoming participants in their own rescue,” said Glover, adding that their using social media and marketing tools to promote and build their businesses.
Ingram said that there are a lot of things that are happening that are positive, because of Airbnb, and the company wants to educate and engage people around those things.
Although much of the company’s growth has been organic, Ingram said that, now, Airbnb has to be more strategic and intentional about the alliances they form.
That’s why their reaching out to organizations like the NAACP and partnering with activists, like Glover, to really connect with communities of color.
“Danny is beloved in our community not just for his acting, but also for his activism and all of the great things that he has done to promote equity for the Black community,” said Ingram.
Ingram said that’s also why Airbnb connected with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a trade group that represents more than 200 Black-owned media companies, to announce its partnership with Glover; The “Lethal Weapon” actor penned an op-ed for the Black Press.
“We just want to create the opportunity to educate people and to allow them decide for themselves,” said Ingram. “Yes, we have had instances of people dealing with racism on the platform, but we’ve also done a lot to prevent it and we want people to know that.”
Ingram said that the Black Press will be invaluable in educating the Black community about the economic opportunities available with Airbnb.
“[African Americans] rely on the Black Press, we trust our press, because it’s part of our community,” said Ingram. “So, having a relationship with the Black Press is going to be important for Airbnb in conveying this message.”
Ingram continued: “As we continue to do this work, it will be increasingly important that we work in partnership and in tandem with the Black Press.”