Airbnb responds to “fear-mongering” ad suggesting short-term rentals aid terrorism

Airbnb responds to “fear-mongering” ad suggesting short-term rentals aid terrorism
Rev. Kirsten Foy led a rally of Airbnb hosts at City Hall in July. Bebeto Matthews/AP
Rev. Kirsten Foy led a rally of Airbnb hosts at City Hall in July. Bebeto Matthews/AP

At the end of July, the Hotel Association of New York City launched an ad campaign against Airbnb, claiming its long-time foe enables terrorists to easily find housing in the county’s major cities.

“Airbnb allows illegal listings on its site, and refuses to hand over the addresses to law enforcement,” the ad reads. “Are you at risk?”

The answer to this question, HANYC suggests, is yes.

The ad goes on to reference May’s Manchester attacks, which left 22 dead and more than 100 injured. HANYC points out that the bomber, Salman Abedi, resided in a short-term rental that he managed to secure through a “local online realtor” and even managed to have several packages sent there before the attacks. The rental unit, however, wasn’t an Airbnb listing, according to the Verge.

Still, HANYC insists Airbnb’s presence in New York City is cause for alarm, ending the ad with a quote from former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, who, in November 2015, said “We still remain the number one terrorist target in the world.”

Source: Share Better/YouTube

On Monday, Nick Shapiro, Airbnb’s global head of trust and risk management, sent a letter condemning the ad and its “fear-mongering” to three members of the Hotel Association: Stephen Holmes of Wyndham Worldwide, Stephen Joyce of Choice Hotels and Arne Sorenson of Marriott International.

Your ad is misleading, plays to xenophobic fears, and is beneath the dignity of the hospitality industry. It is an affront to the victims of terrorism, and its shock and abhorrent xenophobia is only equaled by the irony of it being paid for by hotels, where, as the New York Post recently noted while covering your ad, “lots of terrorists have stayed.” Given that you are supporting an ad about terrorism in lodging, do your hotels have a perfect record on this?

Shapiro went on to challenge the aforementioned hotels to institute screening processes as rigorous as the ones Airbnb already has in place, which he says include standard background checks for criminal records, sex offender histories and “significant misdemeanors.” Shapiro said the company also prides itself on using “sophisticated machine learning technology” to prevent “bad actors” from using the platform in the first place.

HANYC’s new ad is the latest in an ongoing feud between the country’s hotel industries and the home-sharing platform. In July 2016, Airbnb removed 2,233 illegal hotels in New York City from its site. Not only are illegal hotels bad for the traditional hotel business — the very industry Airbnb seeks to “disrupt” — but many have argued the home-sharing platform has disastrous effects on long-term tenants and the city’s poor, who rely on affordable housing that may be rented out via the platform.

In addition to Monday’s letter, Airbnb has put out its own ad in response, spotlighting a Brooklyn family that uses Airbnb to help pay their rent.

“The hotel industry is pushing scare tactics to frighten the hosts into thinking there’s something wrong with what they’re doing,” Quami, an Airbnb host in Bedford-Stuyvesant, says in the ad.

Source: Airbnb Citizen/YouTube

“We have a responsibility to work together to prevent the cowardly acts of individuals or organizations that seek to attack innocent people and destroy our way of life,” Shapiro wrote. “The public, our consumers, and our employees will all be better served if we work together and learn from another.”

The Hotel Association of New York City wasn’t immediately available for comment.