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Carl Court/Getty Images

Airbnb thinks increased instant bookings will curb discrimination

Donna Tam Sep 8, 2016
Carl Court/Getty Images

Airbnb is reducing the prominence of its guest photos and increasing instant bookings in an effort to keep hosts from rejecting guests based on their race, the company announced today.

The new policies, which go into effect Nov. 1, also includes a program for training hosts on racial bias.

“Discrimination is the opposite of belonging, and its existence on our platform jeopardizes this core mission,” CEO Brian Chesky wrote in an email to users. “Bias and discrimination have no place on Airbnb, and we have zero tolerance for them. Unfortunately, we have been slow to address these problems, and for this I am sorry. I take responsibility for any pain or frustration this has caused members of our community.”

The changes for the peer-to-peer lodging site are made in response to backlash over hosts rejecting some guests earlier this year, presumably based on their race. Last year, Harvard University researchers found that guests with African-American-sounding names had a harder time making bookings on the site.

Airbnb said in June that it would revamp its policies, and the issue highlighted the lack of diversity within the company’s workforce. As part of its new policy, Airbnb will implement measures to increase diversity among its employees as well.

Airbnb plans to have at least 1 million instant booking sites by January. A typical Airbnb booking process involves guests submitting a request to a host and then the host approving the room rental. It was designed as a security measure to allow hosts to screen their guests before approving the booking. Instant bookings allowed hosts to treat their listing more like a hotel booking site. A guest simply had to book the room without the approval process.

The site will also reduce the importance of profile pictures during the booking process while “enhancing other parts of host and guests profiles with objective information,” according to the company.

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