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Airbnb opening doors

GROWTH: Airbnb

AIRBNB, the housing marketplace that connects travellers with hosts in 65,000 cities and 191 countries worldwide, is on a mission to increase awareness about the company’s economic benefits among people of colour.

It’s part of an ongoing effort to increase diversity and eliminate discrimination on the platform that launched in 2008. In 2015, the company came under fire when Harvard researchers reported widespread discrimination by Airbnb hosts.

“Real Airbnb users of colour said they weren’t surprised,” reported at the time. “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 American Civil Liberties Union’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.

CAMPAIGN: Janaye Ingram, with Hollywood star Danny Glover

Ingram continued: “Racism exists in this world, but the company 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 colour, 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 has met African American and Latino 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 per cent of what they earn from their listings. “Our typical hosts earns about $6,100 a year,” said Ingram. “Imagine having $6,100 extra 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, so it’s an overall benefit for the community,” said Ingram, adding that this highlighted a new brand of entrepreneurship.

“It is important for people to understand that some Airbnb hosts are becoming participants in their own rescue,” said Glover, adding that they are using social media and marketing tools to promote and build their businesses.

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