Skift Take

In the wake of recent bad publicity and plans to go public in 2020, Airbnb has no choice but to take concerns among users and neighbors seriously. Its recent steps are a good start, but shouldn't these have been a part of the strategy to begin with?

skift short-term rental summit 2019Local communities have long been wary of Airbnb’s presence in their neighborhoods, but the company said it’s serious about earning the trust of all them — and all parties in an Airbnb experience.

Recent coverage of  tragic events at Airbnb rentals have put a negative spotlight on the rules — or lack of them — with Airbnb rentals. But a tipping point may have been reached after five people were killed at a Halloween party in a California Airbnb rental in October. The company announced shortly afterward that it would would verify all seven million listings by the end of 2020 and move to ban so-called party houses. Airbnb also announced on Thursday that it would now prohibit “open invite” parties — events promoted on social media where the public is invited — at most of its accommodations.

Speaking at Skift Short-Term Rental Summit on Thursday, Airbnb Vice President of Trust Margaret Richardson said that these recent decisions were a part of greater Airbnb company plans, and not just something her trust department was committed to.

“We’ve shifted away from thinking of this as a trust initiative. These are companywide commitments about the kind of company we want to be,” she said.

In addition to the ban on the parties, the company said it will introduce a 24/7 hotline for local officials next year. Airbnb has been in a battle with many cities and towns who have sought more regulation of the rental platform. The company already operates hotlines for its customers and law enforcement.

“We are expanding our offerings to public officials to make sure when they have an issue, they’re able to contact the right person in Airbnb to deal with that issue in their jurisdiction as quickly as possible,” Richardson said.

She said the company had already reached out to jurisdictions around the world. Richardson also invited other rental platforms to cooperate in Airbnb’s effort to reach out to local officials.

These moves come in advance of a planned 2020 public offering, which has many watchers skeptical about the company’s commitment to trust as a long-term goal. But Richardson said Airbnb is focused on delivering on its promises to keep all stakeholders happy.

“The idea that we will deliver and be able meet the high expectations we’ve set for ourselves is the North Star that everyone wakes up thinking about.”

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Tags: airbnb, skift short-term rental summit, str2019

Photo credit: Margaret Richardson (left), Airbnb vice president of Trust, speaks on stage at Skift Short-Term Rental Summit in New York City on December 5, 2019. Skift

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