Airbnb and subsidiary HotelTonight are canceling all booked reservations in the Washington, D.C., metro area during President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, the company announced in a statement shared by Airbnb spokesman Ben Breit.
All reservations during inauguration week will be canceled. Biden’s inauguration is next Wednesday.
“Today, in response to various local, state and federal officials asking people not to travel to Washington, D.C., we are announcing that Airbnb will cancel reservations in the Washington, D.C. metro area during the inauguration week,” Airbnb said in the statement. “Additionally, we will prevent any new reservations in the Washington, D.C., area from being booked during that time by blocking such reservations.”
Airbnb added that the decision was informed by input from its host community, in addition to Washington, D.C., officials; D.C. Metro Police; and members of Congress this week.
“In particular, Mayor Bowser, Governor Hogan (of Maryland) and Governor Northam (of Virginia) have been clear that visitors should not travel to the D.C. Metro area for the inauguration,” Airbnb said.
The decision comes as the company has been made aware of emerging reports that armed militias and hate groups are attempting to travel to disrupt the inauguration, it said in the statement.
Airbnb continues to ban from its platform individuals involved in the Capitol riots last week.
“We have identified numerous individuals who are either associated with known hate groups or otherwise involved in the criminal activity at the Capitol Building, and they have been banned from Airbnb’s platform,” Airbnb said.
The company will fully refund any canceled reservation and reimburse hosts directly for the money they would have earned from those bookings.
There are exceptions for long-term stays and stays for medical care, Breit told USA TODAY.
The blanket cancellations also largely nullify the “Capitol Safety Plan” Airbnb rolled out Monday.
USA TODAY has also contacted Vrbo, another major vacation rental platform, for comment regarding its plans for Inauguration.
What are hotels doing?
While Airbnb has taken drastic steps, other area hotels are keeping their safety plans close to the vest following the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, which will also host the swearing-in ceremony for Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Some Hilton properties, including Capital Hilton, are in locations near the White House and other sites. Nigel Glennie, spokesperson for Hilton, explained these locations can be congregation points for both celebrations and events including protests.
“It won’t surprise you that our D.C. hotels continuously review their safety and security procedures,” Glennie said. That said, procedures are not public.
“We don’t get into the specifics of our security posture publicly, but the preparation is always well informed and mindful of current events,” Glennie said. “The teams at these hotels are very experienced and have a long history of successfully managing through major public events.”
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, the vast majority of which are franchised, is putting safety and security of guests and employees first, Rob Myers, spokesperson for Wyndham, told USA TODAY.
“We have provided our hotels with additional security measures to consider, and we are encouraging them to follow guidance from local authorities,” Myers said.
Hyatt is emphasizing COVID-19 mandates, which are enforced on hotel property. Most rioters did not wear masks on Wednesday.
“Guests who are not willing to comply with the policy will be asked to leave the premises or may be given the option of remaining in their guestroom for the duration of their visit,” Stephen Snart, spokesperson for Hyatt, said.
Airbnb canceling reservations is different than hotels doing the same. Here’s why
The moves hotels are making to ensure guest and employee safety are less stringent than what Airbnb has done. But Airbnb’s capability to put a blanket cancel on reservations comes with different implications than if a hotel company did the same thing.
“Airnbnb is fundamentally different than a hotel in that they are simply a platform, they are not public spaces, they do not have employees, and they do not have the type of debt service that a hotel has,” David Sherwyn, professor of hospitality human resources and law and director of the Cornell University Center for Innovative Hospitality Labor & Employment Relations, told USA TODAY in a statement.
Sherwyn added that Airbnb also doesn’t have security staffed at their properties and that the company insures its providers. So, should something go wrong, the potential cost is high to the company.
“In D.C., providers who do not share their home, but instead rent the entire home are limited to a certain number of days per year,” Sherwyn continued. “The cost to Airbnb is some lost revenue and risk reduction. The cost to hotels are their place in the economy, their employees compensation and their duty to their guests who need to be in town.”