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Tuesday May 18th, 2021 7:47PM

Airbnb to block, cancel DC bookings ahead of inauguration

By The Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) — Airbnb said Wednesday it will be blocking and canceling all reservations in the Washington, D.C., area during the week of the presidential inauguration.

The decision was in response to local, state and federal officials asking people not to travel to Washington. It came two days after it said it was reviewing reservations in the area ahead of the inauguration and said it will bar any guests associated with hate groups or violent activity.

The San Francisco-based home sharing company said that guests whose reservations were canceled will be refunded in full. It will reimburse hosts — at Airbnb's expense — the money they would have earned from those canceled reservations. It also said that reservations at HotelTonight, a service owned by Airbnb that handles last-minute deals at top-rated hotels, will also be canceled.

Airbnb declined to say how many reservations were canceled. But over Presidents' Day weekend, the site lists more than 300 rentals in the Washington area.

“We are continuing our work to ensure hate group members are not part of the Airbnb community," the company said in a corporate blog.

Airbnb said that it had learned through media or law enforcement sources the names of individuals confirmed to have been responsible for the criminal activity at the U.S. Capitol. And it's investigated whether the named individuals have an account on Airbnb. Through this work, it said it has identified numerous individuals associated with known hate groups or otherwise involved in the criminal activity at the Capitol building, and they have been banned from Airbnb's platform.

Airbnb has had a policy of removing guests who are confirmed to be members of hate groups since 2017, when it blocked people who were headed to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The company also said Monday that it won’t give political donations to the Republicans who voted against certifying the results of the election last week. Airbnb joined Marriott, AT&T , Walmart and others in taking that stand.

Airbnb’s political action committee donated $866,519 to candidates and political parties in the 2020 election cycle, according to Open Secrets, which monitors campaign finance donations. Democratic President-elect Joe Biden was the biggest recipient of Airbnb donations.

Meanwhile, a hotel labor union representing 7,200 hotel workers in the Washington area, called for hotel closures in the area to protect staff and the public.

“Given the danger and fluidity of this situation, the best way to guarantee the safety of hotel workers and District residents is to keep these groups out of the city and out of its hotels,“ said John Boardman, executive secretary-treasurer of Unite Here Local 25. ”But the threat has not dissipated, as we continue to hear reports of armed, far-right militias planning to threaten Washington in the days ahead."

Marriott International said Wednesday that its hotels in the Washington area will remain open leading up to and through the inauguration.

“We have many official participants of the inauguration staying with us and plan on upholding those reservations," the company said in a statement to The Associated Press. “We, of course, have the safety of our guests and associates top of mind given the recent events. We are monitoring the situation very closely and have operational and security plans in place."

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AP Business Writer Dee-Ann Durbin in Detoit contributed to this report.

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Follow Anne D’Innocenzio: http://twitter.com/ADInnocenzio

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