New York City

Airbnb Official: Hotel Industry Terror Ad ‘Misleading, Plays to Xenophobic Fears'

The ad says the man who carried out a deadly bombing in Manchester stayed at a short-term rental before carrying out the attack

An Airbnb official wrote a letter Monday to three hotel CEOs in response to a New York hotel industry ad that suggests home-sharing can be linked to terrorism.

Nick Shapiro, Airbnb’s global head of trust and risk management, penned the letter to Wyndham Worldwide CEO Stephen Holmes, Choice Hotels CEO Stephen Joyce, and Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson.

“Your ad is misleading, plays to xenophobic fears, and is beneath the dignity of the hospitality industry,” Shapiro writes in the letter.

The ad, which features foreboding music and has no voices, includes lines like: “Airbnb allows illegal listings on its site, and refuses to hand over the addresses to law enforcement.”

“Are you at risk?” one line reads. “Who’s in your building?” reads another.

The hotel industry ultimately wants Airbnb to provide New York City with a list of its listings. Airbnb has already worked out an agreement to share listing addresses with cities like San Francisco, New Orleans and Denver.

In his letter, Shapiro wrote the ad 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.” Shapiro referenced a report by The New York Post that found “lots of terrorists have stayed in hotels.”

Shapiro said hotels don’t run background checks on potential guests or screen guest names against global watch lists, criminal records and sex offender registries like Airbnb does.

“We challenge the hotel industry to put in place the kinds of systems that already exist at Airbnb and then work with us to tackle the issue and improve security across the travel and hospitality industries writ large,” Shapiro wrote.

In an NBC interview last week, Shapiro said, “We’re seeing this scare tactic and the politicization of terrorism, which doesn’t make anyone any safer.”

New York City has waged a well-documented war against property owners violating its Airbnb rules. The home-sharing company says it wants bad actors out too, telling News 4 New York security is a top priority and that they screen all hosts and guests.

The NYC Hotel Association and union workers say they see the ad as a way to get Airbnb to publicly share its 40,000 New York addresses.

The ad quotes a Business Insider report saying Manchester bomber Salman Abedi stayed at a short-term rental before he carried out the deadly attack, which killed 23 people in May. 

But Vijay Dandapani, the president of the NYC Hotel Association, told News 4 the ad doesn’t say Airbnb had anything to do with Manchester.

“It's an example of how when there is not a publication of listings that detail where people are staying, then it's a potential security threat,” Dandapani said.

“The concern here is when you’ve got these dark buildings, where no one knows where they are in many instances,” Dandapani said.

Shapiro said there is a bill currently in the New York Assembly that would require hosts in the state to share information like listing addresses.

“That’s the exact type of discussion we want to be having,” Shapiro said. “Not a discussion about the politicization of terrorism, which is frankly disgusting and distasteful.”

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