Airbnb Ups the Ante on Refugee Commitment

AirBnb, Donald Trump, immigration, travel, Leon Kaye
Airbnb’s message of inclusion and acceptance is backed by a $4 million donation.

A federal judge suspended portions of U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban on Friday. The ban, issued via executive order almost two weeks ago, may be held up in the courts for a while. But press accounts still relay scenes of confusion as travelers from the seven nations in question scramble to arrive here while they still can.

Last week Airbnb said it would strive to provide free housing to people affected by the U.S. travel ban. And over the weekend the home-sharing company doubled down on its commitment to refugees and displaced persons, with a goal to provide short-term housing to 100,000 people over the next five years.

Those “people in need,” as defined by Airbnb, will initially include refugees, disaster survivors and humanitarian aid workers. In an email to members, the company also pledged to donate $4 million to the International Rescue Committee to support displaced citizens around the world.

In the meantime, Airbnb is still calling on hosts and guests to either open up their homes or send a donation to organizations that are working with refugees or other displaced people.

Intertwined in this latest email to Airbnb users is the message of acceptance, as showcased in the short-term rental service’s hotly discussed Super Bowl advertisement. Noting that some Airbnb users have suffered discrimination in the past, the company’s leadership implied that they wanted the conversation to continue on social media with the hashtag #WeAccept. As of press time, that hashtag is still trending on Twitter, although interspersed in the discussion are the lamentations of Atlanta Falcons fans along with support for Trump’s hardline immigration policy.

Airbnb’s dive into the immigration debate comes at a time when the travel industry is grappling with how to respond to the administration.

Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who immigrated to the U.S. with his family in 1978 as Iran moved closer to revolution, told employees in an email that Trump’s executive order positions the U.S. as “inward-looking versus forward-thinking, reactionary versus visionary.” And in December, well before Trump took office and started issuing his executive orders, a poll revealed that 1 in 5 French and British travelers, along with 1 in 3 German nationals, said they had become less inclined to visit the U.S.

Meanwhile Airbnb joined 96 companies, mostly in the technology sector, to file a brief at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco. The amicus curiae filing, which was signed by companies including Microsoft, Netflix, Intel, eBay and Apple, describes the travel ban as an attack on immigration.

Immigration, the signatories say, is “a key reason why the American economy has been the greatest engine of prosperity and innovation in history.” The brief also claims the executive order “inflicts significant harm on American business, innovation and growth as a result.”

As both the U.S. travel and technology sectors push back against the ban, others see opportunities in the controversy. More Canadian technology startups and entertainment companies are openly discussing how they could benefit by inviting stranded talent north of the border.

Image credit: Airbnb


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Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

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