Airbnb Says Black, Hispanic & Asian Travelers Have Lower Booking Acceptance Rates Than White Travelers
The rental platform released a review of its efforts to fight discrimination and candid data on the barriers non-white travelers face on Airbnb.
Travelers who are perceived as Black have the widest gap in success in booking rentals on Airbnb compared to travelers seen as white, Airbnb said in a report on the company's efforts to fight discrimination Tuesday.
"Unfortunately, discrimination happens daily in our world, which means it can happen on Airbnb, too," the company wrote in the report.
An author on the report, Laura Murphy, former director of the ACLU's Washington office — who also completed civil rights audits for Facebook — said she appreciated Airbnb's "tenacity" on the issue, as it is the third report of this type she has led or worked on for Airbnb.
"I have seen far too many companies commit to meet a moment of injustice, only to see their dedication falter and funds dry up when the press coverage subsided and corporate priorities shifted," Murphy wrote.
In 2015, Harvard researchers found travelers whose names seemed to be African American were less likely to have bookings accepted by hosts. Travelers have also shared stories of experiences with discrimination on the platform using the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack.
In the years since then, Airbnb has implemented features like not displaying someone's profile picture until a booking is confirmed, which it rolled out in 2018. In Oregon, it is testing a feature that only shows a guest's initials until a booking is confirmed to prevent name-based discrimination.
But the report touched on some major divides among white, Black, Hispanic/Latino and Asian travelers. The company based the racial analysis on "the race someone might associate with a first name and profile photo."
In 2021, Black travelers had a 91.4% percent booking success rate — i.e., the number of times they were able to book the listing they requested. White travelers had a 94.1% success rate; Asian and Hispanic/Latino users both had a 93.4% success rate.
Black and Hispanic/Latino customers are also less likely than white travelers to be left reviews by their hosts, according to the report. Because they have fewer reviews, they are less likely to qualify for the requirements to "instant book."
On Airbnb, a host can decide if they want to allow people to book a property whenever it's available or if they want to manually approve every booking request.
Hosts also decide who can instantly book their homes — i.e., if someone has a verified government ID or, crucially, some sort of review history.
Airbnb said in the discrimination report it will continue to remove barriers to access to instant book, such as allowing hosts to let users who do not have prior reviews instantly book their properties.
"Instant book is one of the most effective tools to increase the booking success rate across perceived racial groups. Because reservations made with instant book don't require a review by the host before approval, bookings are more objective," the company wrote.
The report discussed other diversity and inclusion efforts, such as the November 2022 launch of its Adapted category. The company uses scans "conducted by leading spatial data company Matterport" to determine if rentals are actually accessible to those in wheelchairs. It launched the category with 1,000 listings, the company said in the report.
The report added that "going forward" a portion of company executives' pay "will be based on their teams' respective diversity plans." Airbnb cited the NAACP and Color Of Change as partners in the report.