Airbnb announces changes to its booking policy to combat racial discrimination

Airbnb this week released a new report on its Project Lighthouse initiative to combat racial bias on its platform, including major updates it made to its instant booking system to address the issue.

According to the report, the accommodation market continues to see a noticeable difference in the booking success rate of travelers using its platform who are perceived as Black and other travelers. In 2021, travelers perceived to be black had a booking success rate of 91.4%, at least two percentage points lower than travelers perceived to be from other racial backgrounds, and almost three points lower. percentage less than those perceived as white.

Earlier this year, Airbnb already took steps to address racial bias on the platform by only allowing hosts to see the initials of a potential guest instead of their full name before a request is confirmed. The company also said in a report that it opened nearly 4,000 accounts worldwide this year for violations of its non-discrimination policy.

The company says it will continue its work on the issue, including allowing more users of the platform to use its instant booking feature.

There are two ways to make a reservation on Airbnb, Instant Book and Book Request, with the former being the most popular. Instant Book does not directly involve the host, but rather relies on reviews.

Typically, after each Airbnb stay, guests and hosts can review each other. This, however, can leave the door open for biased hosts to discriminate against guests of color and impact their ability to book future stays.

The company’s recently updated Instant Book settings allow potential guests to take advantage of the automated booking feature even if no host has previously submitted a review for them or their stays. Prior to the change, Airbnb recommended that hosts enable Instant Book only for guests who received at least one review from another host after a stay.

The company says the large number of rejections on the platform is “partly due to the fact that a large percentage of guests who are perceived to be black often do not meet the criteria selected by the host to use instant booking, because they don’t yet have a review history and/or because they’re using Airbnb for the first time He estimates that at least 5 million additional guests will now be able to make the most of Instant Book due to recent changes.

Other actions Airbnb announced this week include exploring more ways to increase trust between hosts and guests during the booking process, making it easier for all guests to receive reviews during a travel, expanding their audit of booking denials to better identify biases and continuing to educate guests. on how to be more inclusive in how they run their Airbnbs.

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