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Airbnb is a clear outlier in canceling reservations for inauguration

Melody Hahm
·West Coast Correspondent
·3-min read

On Thursday, Airbnb (ABNB) announced it will not be taking new bookings and will be canceling existing ones in the Washington, D.C. area during the week of the presidential inauguration. HotelTonight, which Airbnb acquired in 2019, will also cancel all reservations.

Airbnb stands alone in this decision to implement a hardline mandate ahead of the inauguration on Jan. 20. Expedia-owned Vrbo (EXPE) and all major hotel chains are keeping their doors open as the nation reels from last week’s pro-Trump insurrection and the devastating coronavirus pandemic.

There are approximately 4,200 Airbnb properties in the DC area, with hosts making an average daily rate of about $145, though the occupancy rate was about 55% this time last year, according to AirDNA, which scrapes and analyzes data on Airbnb and Vrbo.

The home rental platform will be reimbursing hosts for the payouts and the company is exempting those who previously booked long-term stays and honoring requests for medical/hardship examples (which will be reviewed and confirmed by Airbnb).

This decision to block reservations fits into its “Capitol Safety Plan” it announced earlier this week, which also included banning individuals identified as involved in criminal activity during the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 and enforcing stricter ID verification checks.

Washington DC, Grand Hyatt, hotel entrance. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Washington DC, Grand Hyatt, hotel entrance. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

“As we’ve learned through media or law enforcement sources the names of individuals confirmed to have been responsible for the violent criminal activity at the United States Capitol on January 6, we’ve investigated whether the named individuals have an account on Airbnb,” the company said in a statement.

This move comes as D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser asks the public not to attend the inauguration. “Airbnb’s work continues to be informed by inputs from our local host community as well as Washington, D.C. officials, Metro Police and Members of Congress throughout this week,” the company said.

On Friday afternoon, Vrbo published a blog post claiming “Vrbo does not tolerate acts of harassment, violence, or discrimination” and that it expects all members...to demonstrate respect and tolerance in all interactions with one another, both online and offline.” The short-term home rental company did not announce any restrictions and its D.C. listings remain active and available.

Marriott (MAR), IntercontinentalHotelGroup (IHG), Hilton (HLT), and Hyatt (H) plan to remain open even as the demands for them to shut down get louder. Local boutique hotels like Capitol Hill Hotel, and The Avery Georgetown are still taking new reservations. Marriott and its subsidiaries alone, including Courtyard by Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton, Residence Inn, and Renaissance Hotels, have 198 properties in the D.C. area.

D.C.’s hotel workers union, United HERE Local 25, represents 7,200 hospitality workers in the metro D.C. area. In a statement this week, the group called for all hotels except those hosting security personnel to shut down. Around 20,000 National Guard troops will be in D.C. starting this weekend to protect the nation’s capital as President-Elect Joe Biden gets sworn in.

Guard Members were seen checking into the Hyatt Place Washington D.C./National Mall on Thursday, according to CBS affiliate WUSA9. Other activist groups including Black Lives Matter D.C. and ShutDown DC have also demanded hotels close up shop and prevent visitors from coming to the capital.

Melody Hahm is Yahoo Finance’s West Coast correspondent, covering entrepreneurship, technology and culture. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

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