Airbnb’s six-year update report shares insights into racial discrimination and how it’s addressing it

Airbnb has worked to address racial discrimination across its platform; this week the company released a six-year contract report on how it goes, as reported by Thrillist. Beginning in 2016, Laura W. Murphy, a veteran civil rights leader, began auditing Airbnb to assess discriminatory practices between hosts and guests. In 2019, Airbnb began efforts to address racial bias uncovered during the audit; his Project Lighthouse was launched in 2020 to expose and address unfair practices against people of color. The initiative was developed with racial justice organization Color of Change, and now Airbnb is sharing the results.

What did Project Lighthouse find?

That customers perceived as black manage to book the stay of their choice 91.4% of the time, while customers perceived as white have a better booking rate, 94.1%.

How can they even say that?

Once you click “book” on the website to book a particular stay, hosts can then confirm or reject your booking.

Is this racial disparity spread across other racial groups?

Yes. The general conclusions for booking success rates are as follows:

White: 94.1%

Asian: 93.4%

Latino/Hispanic: 93.4%

Other/Unknown: 93.2%

Black: 91.4%

How did Airbnb approach this?

Four years ago, the company removed the host’s ability to see the guest’s profile picture until the reservation was confirmed. This seemed to have a minor effect on the disparity between customers perceived by Blacks and Whites, but did not improve the success rate of reservations for other perceived races.

What else did Airbnb do?

The Instant Book feature allows guests to confirm a reservation without host intervention. Last month, Airbnb made changes to the platform that will allow around 5 million more people to use the instant booking feature, especially customers perceived to be black. Guests who have violated Airbnb policies or a host’s House Rules are not eligible for Instant Book.

What else?

Airbnb has learned that guests perceived as Black or Latino/Hispanic have fewer reviews (how a host can judge their past stays) than guests perceived as White or Asian, so it’s easier for all guests to receive opinions. One way that works is that now, when a customer books a stay, they can save those who are staying with them, who then “inherit” the positive review from the main customer even if they have never booked a stay themselves. themselves.

Can’t Airbnb prevent hosts from refusing because of their race?

The company makes an effort to analyze reservation declines to determine which were legitimate bounces (the host’s schedule changed or the guest’s needs, such as early check-in, did not work for the host ) and which may have been based on discrimination.

How about educating the hosts?

Airbnb has created a guide called “How to be an even more inclusive host” that helps hosts “welcome travelers of all skill levels, genders, and backgrounds.” The guide includes eight different quick-reads or videos on topics such as “Inclusive Practices to Make Every Guest Feel Welcome” and “Practicing Inclusive Hospitality and Combating Stigma.” Additionally, the company will launch inclusion-focused programs next year.

How about getting bounced based on race?

Airbnb’s 2016 Open House policy means travelers who are discriminated against when booking can get help on another site. This involves a 24-hour security line for urgent requests when customers feel unsafe. Website updates will also make it easier for customers to report racial issues.

And the houses of slavery?

Airbnb now prohibits any stay in a structure located on a former plantation where slaves lived or worked and prohibits hosts from marketing any stay by glorifying the slave-related features of the property. However, this does not apply to experiences (trips that include a hands-on component) that include reputable educational tours of slavery-related spaces.

Is there more?

Much more, including Airbnb’s efforts to be more inclusive for people with disabilities. Read the full report here.

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