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Airbnb is canceling reservations in DC during inauguration week

The NASDAQ market site displays an AirBnb sign featuring CEO Brian Chesky on their billboard on the day of their IPO in Times Square in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., December 10, 2020.
Reuters/Carlo Allegri
Growing up.
  • Michelle Cheng
By Michelle Cheng

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Airbnb is canceling and blocking reservations in the Washington DC metro area during inauguration week. The drastic decision was informed by reports of “armed militias and known hate groups that are attempting to travel and disrupt the Inauguration” of US president-elect Joe Biden, the company said in a blog post. Airbnb also discussed the matter with local government and police officials and with members of Congress, a spokesperson for the company tells Quartz.

Washington DC mayor Muriel Bowser, Maryland governor Larry Hogan, and Virginia governor Ralph Northam all have discouraged visitors from traveling to the DC metro area next week. Airbnb says customers whose reservations are canceled will be refunded in full, and hosts will be reimbursed by the company.

Like other gig companies, Airbnb has had a tumultuous relationship with government officials. It has faced a slew of regulatory battles in cities around the world (and still does). But its dialogue with DC public officials suggests the company, which went public last month, has grown into its role as a corporate citizen. In addition to improving relations with regulators, Airbnb has in recent years made efforts to improve safety, for example booting off users associated with violent hate groups, in advance of specific events like the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. (After the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol, Airbnb said it had canceled DC reservations made for that week by alleged members of groups like the Proud Boys.)

Out of all the big gig companies, Airbnb has been the most outspoken about the recent attack. Last week, the company announced it will be “pausing” political donations to Congressional Republicans who objected to certifying the election results.

It is unclear whether other lodging companies will join Airbnb in suspending reservations in Washington. Hyatt Hotels said its DC properties will remain open, although the company is “strongly encouraging” essential travel only from Jan. 15 to Jan. 22, including stays by essential workers or people caring for others left vulnerable in the pandemic. A spokesperson from Hilton said the company has “no plans to cancel hotel reservations and look[s] forward to welcoming the many Inauguration-related suppliers, government officials, medical professionals, media representatives, military and law enforcement who are traveling to Washington DC.”

This article has been updated with Hyatt Hotels’ intention to keep its DC hotels open during the week of the inauguration.

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