Cape Town - The beauty of the Airbnb model was its ability to harness the sharing economy through a passionate community that was committed to offering travellers something different to the stock-standard hotel chain stay - and at more affordable rates to boot.
But in recent months that very community has been fingered for bias and discrimination.
Earlier this year Airbnb launched a comprehensive effort to fight these bias and perceived discrimination and its most recent call to action is a Community Commitment, which it hopes all Airbnb users will accept. And they're prepared to get tough on those who refuse - by not allowing them the option to host or book.
Beginning November 1, 2016, the online booking offering is asking all hosts to agree to this new Community commitment, which it says will affect your use of Airbnb as you know it.
What is the Community Commitment, you may be wondering?
Airbnb states in a mailer sent out on Sunday 30 October, "You commit to treat everyone—regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age—with respect, and without judgement or bias."
In September this year, Airbnb apologized for its slow response to accusations of racism and outlined new policies to combat the problem, including reducing the prominence of photos in the booking process. At the time the company said it plans to automatically block future reservations for dates where a host has told someone that a property was unavailable.
Accusations that Airbnb has been ignoring complaints of racism have led several black entrepreneurs to create two new vacation rental websites where they say racism will not be tolerated. The new sites include Innclusive.com and Noirbnb.com.
Numerous anecdotes on social media with the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack recounted incidents in which African-American guests were told listings were unavailable for the dates they wanted, only to see those same listings re-advertised later for the same dates.
How do I accept the commitment?
On and after November 1, you'll be shown the Community Commitment when you log in to or open the Airbnb website, mobile or tablet app and you'll automatically be asked to accept.
But can hosts decline the commitment?
If you decline the commitment, you won’t be able to host or book using Airbnb, and you have the option to cancel your account, says Airbnb.
Once your account is cancelled, future booked trips will be cancelled, it says. You will still be able to browse Airbnb but you won’t be able to book any reservations or host any guests.
Airbnb is calling for comment on its Community Commitment and all of its non-discrimination efforts. Read more about the commitment here or mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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