Over the years, short-term rental platform Airbnb has faced its fair share of backlash from users of color who have experienced discrimination when trying to book a stay. Now two years after launching an initiative to learn more about racial inequity on the platform, Airbnb is speaking out about the work they are doing to make things more equitable.
In 2020, the company partnered with various civil rights organizations, including Color of Change, NAACP and National Action Network, to roll out Project Lighthouse, an initiative designed to understand how discrimination happens on Airbnb and develop a workable action plan to overcome it.
Through their research, Airbnb measured the “Booking Success Rate,” the rate at which guests from different racial groups have their reservations confirmed. Although they found that more than 90 percent of guests had no trouble confirming their reservations, a deeper dive found that the experience is noticeably more difficult for people of color. Users thought to be white had more than 94 percent success booking their stays, while the rate dropped to 91 percent for those perceived to be Black. I’m not even going to try to understand what “perceived to be Black” means.
“It is a meaningful difference, and it’s unacceptable,” said Janaye Ingram, Airbnb’s director of community partner programs and engagement, in an interview with CNN. “It is something that we obviously are not okay with, and we are doing a lot to address.”
Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, believes Airbnb’s efforts are working, and says the company’s willingness to hold themselves accountable is an example to others.
“Racial audits work, as long as corporations make the changes necessary to address what they expose. Six years after Airbnb’s first racial audit, and two years after Color Of Change negotiated Project Lighthouse, Airbnb is now a leading example of what it looks like to back up the rhetoric of racial justice with the policy, practice and personnel that can prevent rampant racial discrimination,” he said.
In a statement on its website, Airbnb expressed their continued commitment to eradicating racism on their platform. “Our mission has always been to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere. Racism, hate, and discrimination go against everything we believe in as a company and a global community.”
One thing is for sure: Black folks will definitely be watching.