NEW YORK: Airbnb, the San Francisco-based short-term rental listing company, has been forced to respond to a suggestion in a TV ad that it had a part to play in a terrorist attack.
A 30-second commercial from the Hotel Association of New York City, published on 31st July, asks “Who’s in your building?” before alleging that Airbnb refuses to hand over addresses of illegal listings to law enforcement. The ad then jumps to a Business Insider story reporting that police raided a property that Salman Abedi, the man who killed 22 people when he blew himself up at the UK’s Manchester Arena in May, had rented for a short term.
Abedi did not, however, rent from Airbnb.
“The fact is Airbnb had nothing to do with the tragic events in Manchester,” Airbnb Press Secretary Peter Schottenfels told the NY Daily News. “We are one of the only hospitality companies that runs background checks on all US residents, both hosts and guests.”
“Hotel CEOs have a responsibility to tell us why they don’t do the same and why they continue to fund this sort of despicable, cynical advertising,” he continued. Yesterday, Vijay Dandapani, the president of the NYC Hotel Association, went onto NBC 4 New York to claim that the ads do not accuse Airbnb of having anything to do with Manchester.
Three days after the ad’s publication, Airbnb responded with a counter-ad: Scare Tactics, which features a Brooklyn-based host who says the service provides extra income that allows him to supplement living costs.
The claim is presented alongside figures from the company stating that 76% of hosts in NYC say they use their earnings from the platform to help pay their rent or mortgage.
Airbnb’s global head of trust and risk management, Nick Shapiro, then wrote a letter to three hotel industry CEOs in which he hit back.
“Your ad is misleading, plays to xenophobic fears, and is beneath the dignity of the hospitality industry. It is an affront to the victims of terrorism, and its shock and abhorrent xenophobia is only equaled by the irony of it being paid for by hotels, where, as the New York Post recently noted while covering your ad,‘lots of terrorists have stayed’,” he wrote.
The criticisms are quite aside from previous obstacles the company has negotiated, including allegations that Airbnb contributes to gentrification, and reduces rental housing stock. Elsewhere, the company was accused of enabling racism, an accusation to which the company quickly and forcefully responded.
Data sourced from Share Better, NY Daily News, NBC 4 New York, Airbnb, The Drum, Technical.ly, BBC, The Guardian; additional content by WARC staff