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Black Travelers Say Home-Share Hosts Discriminate, and a Latest Airbnb Report Agrees


Airbnb is the most important company within the vacation-rental industry, nevertheless it’s not the just one wrestling with discrimination. Vrbo, which is an element of the Expedia Group, has also taken steps to combat bias, including educating hosts, creating more diverse and inclusive marketing campaigns‌, and requiring that words corresponding to “plantation” be used without celebrating slavery. Every listing has a “Report This Property” link that lets users discover problems, that are reviewed and escalated to Vrbo’s trust and safety team, if appropriate, the corporate said.

“We’ve removed photos and last names from profiles, things that past studies have shown can contribute to discriminatory behavior,” said Melanie Fish, the pinnacle of worldwide ‌public relations for Expedia Group Brands. “We’ve a full-time trust and safety team working on rooting out discriminatory behaviors and likewise reacting when guests and hosts report bad actors to us.”

Still, in April 2021, Dallas and Shirley Smith, who’re Black, said they encountered racism once they booked a garage apartment in Montgomery, Ala., for a weekend to have a good time their fifty fifth wedding anniversary. Vrbo doesn’t require guests to have a profile photo. When the Smiths arrived and called the host for an entry code, he told them that they had to go away — the apartment was rented to another person. Mr. Smith identified that it seemed to be vacant.

“He said, ‘I can’t rent to you,’” before hanging up, recalled Mr. Smith, 80, a former U.S. Department of Agriculture official. The Smiths imagine that when the host saw that they were Black, he modified his mind about renting to them. The host couldn’t be reached for comment.

The Smiths aren’t strangers to racism. Traveling within the South within the Sixties, they packed a shoe box of food and patronized only hotel and gas station chains that had adopted nondiscrimination policies. But that they had barely experienced it of their journeys since, to 54 countries and 50 states.

“It type of snapped us back 50 years,” Mr. Smith said.

The Smiths’ daughter called Vrbo and was told that the corporate would look into the situation and that she should call back on a weekday; it didn’t offer to rebook her parents, she said. The Smiths ended their celebration trip early. Vrbo soon refunded their money without a proof or an apology, they said.

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