The Airbnb platform offers a lot of flexibility to both homeowners and renters. It allows people to make extra income by hosting strangers in their home. From the renter’s point-of-view, it allows them to skip the expensive hotels for the comforts of a home. But there’s always a dark-side to freedom and in light of the recent tragedy that occurred at an Airbnb host property, the $31 Billion company was quick to rework its policies.
A tragic backstory
A homeowner cautiously accepted a request from a renter who claimed her family shelter for a night to get relief from the raging Californian wildfires. But on 31 October, the renter hosted a Halloween party for more than one hundred people in an Airbnb host property located in Orinda, a suburb just outside San Francisco. This led to the police being called several times by neighbours with complaints about the havoc created at the crowded party. Unfortunately, by the time the police reached the scene, all hell was unleashed when a shooter left behind five victims and numerous injuries.
The company’s CEO Brian Chesky acknowledged a loophole in its booking system that allows a host home to be used for parties. In a thread of tweets, Chesky summarized the step of a new company policy. He also answered tweets that claimed that his rapid response was an act to clear Airbnb’s name before an IPO.
A PR challenge
Airbnb is not a corporate hotel chain with its name attached to a list of hotel buildings. It serves as a platform to connect willing hosts with many tourists and travellers.
Although brands in hospitality are experts at launching and promoting booking systems or loyalty programs, but dealing with a crisis of this stature is sure to be one of the biggest challenges for PR. Airbnb excels at advertising to promote its brand both print and digital but this time it rapidly needs to create a response to the public backlash coming its way.
This was not the first time an Airbnb property was used as a party house. The company said it is doing everything to find out more about what happened that night, and it is also working to revamp its policies, making it stricter for such violators. Will this help reassure people who list their homes on the platform, as well as renters who want a safe place to stay?
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