Black travelers are less likely to have accepted Airbnb bookings

Travelers perceived as black have the largest gap in success booking rentals on Airbnb compared to travelers perceived as white, Airbnb said in a report on the company’s anti-discrimination efforts on Tuesday.

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“Unfortunately, discrimination happens daily in our world, which means it can also happen on Airbnb,” the company wrote in the report.

An author of the report, Laura Murphy, former director of the ACLU’s Washington office — who also completed civil rights audits for Facebook — said she appreciated Airbnb’s “perseverance” in the case, as it is the third such report she has led or worked on with for Airbnb.

“I’ve seen far too many companies commit to meeting a moment of injustice, only to see their commitment waver and funds dry up as press coverage waned and corporate priorities shifted,” Murphy wrote.

In 2015, Harvard researchers found that travelers whose names appeared to be African-American were less likely to have their bookings accepted by hosts. Travelers have also shared stories of experiences of discrimination on the platform using the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack.

In the years since then, Airbnb has implemented features such as not showing someone’s profile picture until a booking is confirmed, which it rolled out in 2018. In Oregon, it is testing a feature that shows only a guest’s initials until a booking is confirmed to prevent name-based discrimination.

But the report touched on some major disparities between white, black, Hispanic/Latino and Asian travelers. The company based its racial analysis on “the race someone can associate with a first name and profile picture”.

In 2021, black travelers had a booking success rate of 91.4% – i.e. the number of times they were able to book the listing they requested. White travelers had a 94.1% success rate; Asian and Hispanic/Latino users both had a 93.4% success rate.

Black and Hispanic/Latino customers are also less likely than white travelers to receive reviews from their hosts, according to the report. Because they have fewer reviews, they are less likely to qualify for the “instant book” requirements.

On Airbnb, a host can decide if they want to let people book a property when it’s available, or if they want to manually approve each booking request.

Hosts also determine who can instantly book their homes – ie if someone has a verified public ID or, crucially, some sort of review history.

Airbnb said in the discrimination report it will continue to remove barriers to instant book access, such as allowing hosts to allow users with no previous reviews to instantly book their properties.

“Instant book is one of the most effective tools for increasing booking success rates across perceived racial groups. Because reservations made with instant book do not require a review by the host prior to approval, bookings are more objective,” the company wrote.

The report discussed other diversity and inclusion efforts, such as the launch of the accessible category in November 2022. The company uses scans “conducted by leading spatial data company Matterport” to determine whether rentals are actually accessible to those in wheelchairs. It launched the category with 1,000 listings, the company said in the report.

The report added that “going forward” a portion of the company’s executives’ pay “will be based on their teams’ respective diversity plans.” Airbnb cited the NAACP and Color Of Change as partners in the report.

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