Airbnb blocking, cancelling D.C. reservations ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration
Local officials, Airbnb hosts worried about potential attacks
Airbnb has been cancelling home-sharing reservations in the Washington area for the week of president-elect Joe Biden's inauguration after law enforcement warned of a threat from armed militias, the rental platform said on Wednesday.
Airbnb said it made the decision after consulting local and federal officials and after a number of hosts worried about potential attacks sought to cancel bookings.
"We are aware of reports emerging yesterday afternoon regarding armed militias and known hate groups that are attempting to travel and disrupt the Inauguration," the company said.
Airbnb did not comment on specific instances and said it did not see evidence on its platform of guests planning protests and attacks.
"There's no way to guarantee that your guests are not coming to incite violence," Janeese Lewis George, a Washington city council member, said earlier in a post on Twitter. "Please protect your neighbors and the District from more attacks."
Critics of last week's attack on the U.S. Capitol have asked hotels to cancel bookings during inauguration week to prevent further attacks, but major hotel chains Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc and Marriott International said they planned to uphold existing reservations.
"Our hotels in the D.C. area will remain open leading up to and through the inauguration. We of course have the safety of our guests and associates top of mind given the recent events. We are monitoring the situation very closely and have operational and security plans in place," Marriott said.
Hyatt did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Airbnb, which floated its shares on the stock market last month, has banned from its platform some individuals found to have ties with hate groups or who were involved in last week's deadly storming of the Capitol.
The company will issue a full refund to guests and hosts will be paid in full for the cancelled bookings. A spokesperson declined to comment on the financial impact of its decision to cancel bookings.
Airbnb and HotelTonight, which it bought in 2019, are both blocking and cancelling reservations. Airbnb shares were up nearly seven per cent at 3:12 p.m. ET.
Security around the Washington area has been ramped up, with 10,000 National Guard troops streaming into the city to help secure the area ahead of the inauguration. A number of local, state and federal officials have asked people not to travel to Washington during inauguration week.
Facebook said that since the Capitol siege last week, it has seen an increase in signals indicating potential future acts of violence to contest Biden's victory in the November election.
In coming weeks, anti-Trump activists are planning to protest outside hotels where Trump supporters stayed during post-election protests.
"We call on every hotel in D.C. to close completely between Jan. 15 and 21. In the leadup to Jan. 6, we asked hotels to disavow white supremacists and refuse them service," Black Lives Matter DC and ShutDownDC said in a statement.