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A six-year update on Airbnb’s work to fight discrimination


Key Takeaways

  • In 2016, we completed a comprehensive civil rights audit of our platform led by Laura W. Murphy, a seasoned civil rights leader.
  • In 2019, we followed up on the initial report with a review of our work to fight discrimination and build inclusion.
  • Today, we are sharing an update of work to date, including the first data from Project Lighthouse and how we are using these findings to guide our work to fight discrimination and make Airbnb more open and inclusive.

Airbnb fosters connection and belonging, and over the past 15 years, our community has grown to more than 4 million Hosts who have welcomed more than 1 billion guest arrivals in almost every country across the globe. In that time, we’ve built a number of tools to foster connection between people of different backgrounds, cultures, beliefs and geographies.

Unfortunately, discrimination happens in our world, which means it can happen on platforms like Airbnb. That is why, in 2016, we completed a comprehensive civil rights audit of our platform led by Laura W. Murphy, a seasoned civil rights leader. Three years later, in 2019, we followed up on the initial report with a review of our work to date. 

Today, we are sharing a new update on our work to fight discrimination and build inclusion in the Airbnb community. This update includes the first data from Project Lighthouse, an initiative we launched in 2020 to uncover and address disparities in how people of color experience our platform, and how we are using these findings to guide our work to fight discrimination and make Airbnb more open and inclusive.

Project Lighthouse was developed in partnership with Color Of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, and with input from other national civil rights and privacy organizations.

“Airbnb is built on trust, and we will continue to innovate and design new products and initiatives that increase acceptance and combat bias. Important insights, including data generated through Project Lighthouse, will drive our work to make Airbnb a place where everyone feels welcome. We can’t do this work alone, and our partners have given us incredibly valuable feedback. I’m deeply grateful for their insight,” said Airbnb Co-founder and CEO, Brian Chesky.

Rashad Robinson, president of Color Of Change, said, “Racial audits work, as long as corporations make the changes necessary to address what they expose. Six years after Airbnb’s first racial audit, and two years after Color Of Change negotiated Project Lighthouse, Airbnb is now a leading example of what it looks like to back up the rhetoric of racial justice with the policy, practice and personnel that can prevent rampant racial discrimination.”

In addition, Laura W. Murphy, President of Laura Murphy & Associates, who continues to serve as a senior advisor for Airbnb’s anti-discrimination work, said: “I am excited that Airbnb is embracing transparency by using this report to share this data with the public. Too often companies find discrimination problems and want to bury them in secrecy, but since 2016, Airbnb has been committed to taking action and being straightforward about both its progress and its challenges. By sharing the key insights it has learned through Project Lighthouse and how the company is putting them into action, Airbnb is once again demonstrating its genuine commitment to fighting discrimination.”

Additional civil rights leaders also weighed in on the release of the report.

“As we seek to create a safer, fair and just country, it’s vital that corporations take responsibility for preventing and opposing discrimination — for the tech sector, that includes creating more equitable experiences for users. This is a journey most companies aren’t on, but should be. By releasing data about disparities on its platform, and by fostering ongoing dialogue with civil rights organizations and privacy experts, Airbnb is setting a leading example for how other companies should approach this work and drive meaningful change. I applaud the progress and look forward to continued engagement on how to ensure intention continues making impact.” – Maya Wiley, President, and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

“The NAACP has been calling on companies to do what is best for racial equity, and Airbnb has stepped up to provide answers. Airbnb has committed to walk with us and others to unpack their journey to achieving diversity, equity and inclusion as an organization. Over the last six years, the company has set and maintained the blueprint for how companies should tackle this critical work: in a transparent, public-facing and introspective way. By releasing Project Lighthouse data, Airbnb is setting the right precedent for other companies. We applaud Airbnb for taking this step, one of many to come, and encourage other companies to follow their lead. – Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO

Airbnb led the way for the tech industry in undertaking its civil rights audit in 2016. In the years since, I have continued to be impressed by the company’s sustained work and holistic approach to acknowledging and addressing discrimination. As this report lays out, the company is leading once again in using data from Project Lighthouse to develop a plan to fight discrimination more effectively and sharing this data with the public. I commend Airbnb for this important step.  – Eric Holder, Former Attorney General of the United States and Senior Counsel, Covington & Burling LLP

Project Lighthouse: Findings and next steps

Through Project Lighthouse, we measured the rate at which guests in the US from different perceived racial groups have their reservations confirmed after they click ‘Reserve’. We call this the Booking Success Rate. We found that guests from all perceived racial groups have a Booking Success Rates above 90 percent. The widest disparity exists between guests perceived to be Black and guests perceived to be white; guests perceived to be Black were able to successfully book the stay of their choice 91.4 percent of the time, versus 94.1 percent for guests perceived to be white. 

The Booking Success Rate is the rate at which guests from different perceived racial backgrounds successfully book an Airbnb listing. The rate is created with a combination of reservations completed through Instant Book and Request to Book. The majority of reservations are made through Instant Book. Our analysis found the following Booking Success Rates for perceived racial group: guests perceived to be Asian, 93.4%; guests perceived to be Black, 91.4%; guests perceived to be Latino/Hispanic, 94.4%; guests perceived to be white, 94.1%; guests perceived to be other/unknown, 93.2%. These rates are based on a random sample of 750,000 reservations requests—including Instant Book and Request to Book—over the course of 2021.

We used Project Lighthouse to better understand the factors that are driving this disparity and are instituting a series of platform and product interventions to improve the Booking Success Rate for everyone, and make the booking process more equitable: 

  • Creating Connection through Enhanced Profiles. Four years ago, we changed our platform, so Hosts only see a guest’s profile picture after they accept a reservation. This change slightly reduced the Booking Success Rate gap between guests perceived to be Black and guests perceived to be white – eliminating less than half a percentage point, or roughly one fifth of the total Booking Success Rate gap at that time. It did not have a statistically significant impact on the Booking Success Rate for other perceived races. We are working to better understand how to increase trust between Hosts and guests throughout the reservation process. This includes exploring changes to Host and guest profiles to highlight information that can foster more connection. At the same time, we will further explore the impact that other features may have on the opportunity to create bias.
  • Making More People Eligible to Use Instant Book. Instant Book—a feature that allows guests to book a listing without requiring Hosts to approve a reservation request—is an important tool to reduce discrimination in the booking process because it facilitates more objective bookings. We introduced a series of changes in November 2022 that will make it easier for more people, especially guests perceived to be Black, to use Instant Book. We estimate that at least 5 million more people will be able to use Instant Book because of these changes. 
  • More Reviews for More Guests. Guests who have reviews are more likely to successfully book a listing than guests without reviews. Our analysis found that guests perceived to be Black or Latino/Hispanic have fewer reviews than guests perceived to be white or Asian. We are implementing changes that will make it easier for all guests to receive a review when they travel. These changes are designed to result in more reviews for travelers, which we expect will have a significant impact for Black and Latino/Hispanic guests. 
  • Auditing Rejections. We know that there are legitimate reasons why a reservation may not work: the Host’s calendar may have changed, or the guest may have a need—like early check-in, or bringing extra guests—that the Host is unable to accommodate. We are expanding our ability to analyze reservation rejections to help improve our policies and products and fight discrimination.
  • Education and Inclusion Resources for Hosts: This year, we formed an internal team at Airbnb to lead this work and launched a Guide to Inclusive Hosting that includes resources to help Hosts welcome guests of all abilities, genders and backgrounds. We expect to roll out a number of additional inclusion-focused programs and content next year, and we are exploring a range of product features that will support Hosts and guests.

While the Project Lighthouse analysis is focused on our community in the US, these changes are being implemented globally to make our platform more equitable for our entire community.

The full report, available here, provides more details regarding these changes and updates on our work to fight discrimination and build inclusion over the last six years, including how we’re enforcing our Nondiscrimination Policy and Community Commitment, our work to address US-based properties associated with slavery, making our company more diverse, and working with more diverse suppliers. The report and our ongoing work to fight bias are informed by partnerships with a range of organizations, including:

● Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC ● Center for Democracy and Technology ● Color Of Change ● The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights ● League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)  ● NAACP ● National Action Network ● Upturn

We are grateful for all the partners, Airbnb employees past and present, Hosts, guests and advocates who have brought us to this point of action and growth toward greater equity, fairness and positive participation on our platform. We are excited about the changes that we will continue to make in earnest in the coming years to try to ensure Airbnb fosters local, authentic, diverse, sustainable and inclusive travel experiences for all. 

Read the full report here: A Six-Year Update on Airbnb’s Work to Fight Discrimination and Build Inclusion.


About Airbnb 

Airbnb was born in 2007 when two Hosts welcomed three guests to their San Francisco home, and has since grown to over 4 million Hosts who have welcomed more than 1 billion guest arrivals in almost every country across the globe. Every day, Hosts offer unique stays and experiences that make it possible for guests to connect with communities in a more authentic way.

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