Airbnb Cancels & Blocks All DC Inauguration Reservations

Filed Under: Hotels

Airbnb has just taken a more drastic measure than any major hotel group when it comes to the recent (and upcoming) political unrest.

Airbnb cancels & blocks DC inauguration reservations

Airbnb has announced that it will be canceling all reservations in the Washington DC metro area during inauguration week, and will prevent any new reservations from being booked during this period.

Guests with reservations will be refunded in full. Most impressive of all, Airbnb will be reimbursing Airbnb hosts the money that they would have earned from those canceled reservations.

This follows requests from various local, state, and federal officials, asking people not to travel to Washington DC, due to reports of armed militias and hate groups planning to disrupt the inauguration. Airbnb states that it continues to receive input from the local host community, as well as Washington DC officials, Metro Police, and Members of Congress.

Airbnb also states that it’s continuing its work to ensure hate group members are not part of the Airbnb community. Airbnb has banned numerous individuals associated with known hate groups, who were involved in activity at the Capitol Building on January 6.

What’s the right approach for hotels to take?

Following the attack on the Capital Building on January 6, we saw video footage of the public spaces of several hotels in the DC area, with dozens of guests socializing. There are a couple of major issues here:

  • For the most part these guests weren’t wearing masks, in violation of the major hotel groups’ policies that require masks to be worn in all public areas
  • Many of these people were directly involved in the insurrection, and were arrested hours and days later

It raises the question of how lodging companies should realistically handle this situation, especially in the next couple of weeks. There are reports of armed protests being planned in all 50 states:

  • How should hotels control who stays with them?
  • Should hotels close down altogether? If so, only in DC, or in all capitols? The latter doesn’t seem very realistic…
  • I also think it’s important to recognize that there’s a difference between people who want to peacefully and legally protest (which they should be entitled to do, while observing travel restrictions), and trying to take part in an insurrection
  • Furthermore, there are people who have essential reasons for traveling, and if lodging options disappear, where are they supposed to stay?

While many people were no doubt expecting the violence that we saw in DC on January 6, I’m not sure hotels can be held fully responsible for accommodating those guests. After all, even police forces (for all the wrong reasons) claimed they had no credible reason to believe anything would happen, so we can hardly expect private hotel groups to handle this differently.

Airbnb is certainly setting a great example here, and putting its money where its mouth is. At the same time, Airbnb has a different business model than hotels — it’s ultimately a tech company with unlimited funds, which is very different than the hotel business model.

Bottom line

Airbnb is canceling and blocking all bookings in DC for the week of inauguration. Those with reservations will be refunded in full, while hosts will be paid by Airbnb for lost revenue.

If violent, armed riots are going to continue, hotels are going to have to come up with some system to both not support these concepts, and to keep guests safe.

What do you make of Airbnb’s DC decision, and what do you think hotel groups should do?

  1. They will have to block not only DC, but all the larger DC “Metro” area in Maryland and VA inside the Beltway. Arlington, Alexandria, Bethesda, Silver Spring and so on. Most people stay in those area to avoid higher lodging rate in DC proper anyways.

  2. So grateful for Covid in this case. Imagine if there was a typical inauguration with everyone trying to attend. It would likely be even more violent/destructive than Trump’s inauguration was, although the right hasn’t demonstrated the same affinity for property damage that the left has – yet.

  3. If I had a reservation (and were not one of the terrorists), I would be furious about a last-minute cancellation. I live near DC but worked from an airbnb in Coconut Grove last week, and I would have been furious to have lost big bucks on other parts of the travel arrangements if they had shafted me at the last minute.

    As noted earlier, it will be hard to determine the boundaries of the DC area. Why wouldn’t the terrorists be likely to rebook just outside of the boundaries?

  4. My issue is that there could be many in DC for other reasons who also have their stays cancelled. Many there for other reasons likely booked Airbnb instead of a hotel to avoid dealing with issues in the hotel lobby of people not wearing masks, etc.

    I find it problematic that the platform can just cancel like this. It is like a teacher punishing an entire class when many students did not misbehave. It’s unfair.

  5. I understand and probably even applaud AirBnB here, but let’s face it, as others have said, this will not dissuade a committed terrorist.

  6. You state “For the most part these guests weren’t wearing masks, in violation of the major hotel groups’ policies that require masks to be worn in all public areas”

    Have you seen the inside of any hotel since last March? This is the norm, and I haven’t seen any hotel employee saying a word to any guest. Even at the Hyatt Regency DFW, where police officers and uniformed and armed security are all over, no one says a word to the vast majority of guests that don’t comply with mask policies or regulations.

  7. It’s a matter of national security. It may not dissuade a committed person, but it limits their options.

  8. I normally have nothing good to say about Airbnb but I really do have to give them props in this instance.

  9. How are the terrorists going to cook organic food if they have to stay at a hotel rather than at an AirBnB? Some of them also need their cage-free eggs.

    Come to think of it, can an egg really be cage-free if they give it to you while you are in jail? Something to think about.

  10. It would seem to me that there would be a lot of people such as freshman Congress members and their staff as well as people working in the new administration that may be using AirBnB until they find somewhere to lease longer term. I guess those people could just work with the host to stay.

  11. @Bobo

    I will shed a tear for all the armed insurgents/terrorists who have been inconvenienced by this. Some of them might be on hold with Spirit for an hour to try and change their tickets.

  12. Sound non-political analysis lucky!! If I were an Airbnb host and they canceled last minute with refunding me I’d be pretty pissed and maybe even sue if it be significant financial loss.

  13. In this particular case I don’t think it will make a difference. As Sung pointed out, the “DC Metro Area” is enormous and contains so many areas where people can stay. Even smaller towns than the ones he already mentioned have lots of hotels aimed at business travelers etc. There are too many variables around DC to prevent this, unfortunately. In a more isolated city, this move could make sense.

    It does make sense as far as taking a stance/PR.

  14. I cannot help but think of Mary Surratt, who rented rooms in her DC boarding house to the conspirators of the Lincoln assassination. She found herself hanging from the gallows next to them.

    Surratt’s guesthouse, where Booth & his accomplices met, still stands. It’s on H Street and has a Chinese restaurant on the first floor called Wok n’ Roll.

  15. It’d be absurd to do it in State Capitals as well, as plenty are major cities that happen to be the seat of State government… Austin, Atlanta, Boston, Phoenix, Denver, etc. Hell, DC itself is a major metro, and I reckon there’s plenty of people who have a non-inauguration reason for being there this month. Ay least AirBnb is eating the cost for everybody involved.

  16. IAH departures security was tight today. armed guards and police out in full force. They’re on high alert.

  17. It should be noted that Airbnb did not cancel long term rentals in DC. We have a 2 week reservation that has not been canceled and our host has been in great communication with us

  18. “it’s ultimately a tech company with unlimited funds”

    That’s a ridiculous statement about a company that has fired thousands of people this past year due to the pandemic.

  19. ” although the right hasn’t demonstrated the same affinity for property damage that the left has – yet.” No they just kill cops and try to hang vice presidents

  20. Certainly this will not stop someone who is determined to cause harm anymore than TSA will. Can you imagine their thought process -” they just canceled my airbnb reservation. I guess i will have to stay home now”
    It reminds me of one of the questions the US asks of visa applicants. “Do you seek to engage in terrorist activities while in the United States” like anyone would ever answer yes.

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