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Open Homes, Community Tourism Program: AirBnB's charm offensive?

Increasingly condemned by local legislation and hotel operators, AirBnB multiplies the initiatives aimed at restoring its image. It recently launched a platform to help house refugees, as well as an investment fund to boost European tourism.

Recent news about AirBnB shows persistent conflict with major cities, like Paris, New York, Berlin or Amsterdam, which want to limit unfair competition with professional hoteliers. Facing these general outcries, AirBnB has taken the initiative to restore its image: it launched a refugee housing platform as well as a €5-million investment fund to support European tourism.

According to AirBnB, this fund will be dedicated to "promoting a tourism focused on populations" and could be used by NGOs, charities, diverse local initiatives to launch innovative projects. "We want to work with communities to help boost and preserve the qualities that make them unique," Chris Lehane, Global Head of Public Policy and Public Affairs, AirBnB, stated. "AirBnB has a long history of supporting progressive local initiatives that boost communities and bring people together, and we’re excited to continue that tradition here in Europe." In addition, Lehane said that the initiative also pursued the ambition to generate one million jobs by 2020 in Europe.

Launched on June 7, the Open Homes platform enables hosts who are willing to help refugees in need to open their homes to them and provide them with a place to stay, for free. It works the same way as the traditional AirBnB booking system: hosts willing to join the initiative simply enter availability dates as well as housing conditions, and they can also choose a charity to work alongside in the course of the process. AirBnB has notably partnered with Singa and Réfugiés Bienvenue, both French charities.

In addition, loyal to its tolerance policy, the California-based company has specified that it would not be possible to select guest-refugees according to their country of origin.

Through Open Homes, AirBnB aims to house 100,000 over the 5 next years. There are 6,000 listings already online, which is much higher visibility than other actors pursuing similar initiatives. While AirBnB is not the only actor from the hospitality sector to offer refugee housing, hotels doing the same have kept low profiles to avoid any potential issues. And hospitality schools are not outdone either: the 2013 edition of the Worldwide Hospitality Awards granted the Daniels College of Business - University of Denver the Best Educational Innovation trophy, since it has implemented a new HR course dedicated to helping refugees-students reintegrate society and find jobs.

Despite its recent news, AirBnB has already received important media coverage that will undoubtedly reinforce its public image... Has it simply been a marketing campaign or is it a sincere initiative?

Also read:

  • Cuba: Trump allows U.S. tourists to stay in AirBnBs but not in hotels
  • More and more hoteliers list their rooms on AirBnB
  • The decree obliging renters using AirBnB and other platforms to register at the town hall has been published!
  • AirBnB creates its own accommodations

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