Skift Take

Airbnb's stealthy financing and leadership of supposedly grassroots host clubs around the world to pursue the short-term rental giant's advocacy agenda may be an effective tactic, but it furthers a false narrative about the nature of the company, and it is a blotch on its reputation.

Series: Dennis' Online Travel Briefing

Dennis' Online Travel Briefing

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, Executive Editor and online travel rockstar Dennis Schaal will bring readers exclusive reporting and insight into the business of online travel and digital booking, and how this sector has an impact across the travel industry.

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Online Travel This Week A new report based on interviews with nearly two dozen former Airbnb public policy staffers found that the company's supposedly independently run host clubs, key elements in Airbnb's purported grassroots lobbying campaigns around the world, are funded and directed by Airbnb. "Home Sharing Clubs are associations of selected Airbnb landlords who are resourced, mobilized and coordinated by Airbnb public policy teams to advocate for favorable regulation," reads the University of Manchester report, which was supported by Ethical Consumer. "These associations are made up of an unrepresentative segment of Airbnb landlords — mainly those that share their own homes or rent them short-term." [See the report embedded below.] While Airbnb's verbiage about the clubs often revolves around fostering community and helping hosts learn from other hosts, the primary aim is to enhance Airbnb's lobbying efforts against regulatory incursions from San Francisco to New York and Barcelona, t