Airbnb will cancel all bookings in the Washington area during Joe Biden’s inauguration week, citing advice from local and federal officials who have asked people not to travel to the city for the event.
In the wake of last week riots on Capitol Hill, The online rental company said on Wednesday it was taking drastic measures to prevent members of hate groups from using its platform.
The ban also includes bookings made through HotelTonight, a service owned by Airbnb.
“We are aware of reports released yesterday afternoon of known armed militias and hate groups attempting to travel and disrupt the grand opening,” Airbnb said in a report.
The company said it has identified “many people” who were “associated with known hate groups or otherwise involved in criminal activity on Capitol Hill,” and banned them from using the platform permanently.
The Washington DC area ban will apply to existing bookings Monday through Friday next week and any attempt to book during this time will be blocked. Airbnb has said it will reimburse guests and refund hosts the full amount they would have earned if the booked stays had been made.
The ban will not apply to customers with existing long-term bookings that span these dates.
The action in Washington is Airbnb’s largest effort to date to reduce the likelihood of its platform being used by hate groups. It previously blocked individuals known before the events – a policy that began with the murderous 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
It comes as Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser has reiterated her demand that people don’t come to the city and instead experience the inauguration “virtually”, amid fears of new security threats ahead of Mr. Biden’s swearing-in.
“We know this is the right choice and the best way to keep everyone safe,” Ms Bowser said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Representatives from Hilton and Marriott said the hotel chains have no plans to cancel reservations in Washington.
A spokesperson for Hilton said its teams were “very experienced and had a long history of successfully managing major public events,” and that many “vendors related to the grand opening, government officials, health, media, military and law enforcement representatives ”had reserved rooms for the event. He said all customers wishing to cancel reservations can do so without penalty.
A Marriott spokesperson said, “Of course, we have the safety of our guests and associates in mind given recent events. We are monitoring the situation very closely and have operational and security plans in place. “
The Intercontinental Hotel Group did not return a request for comment.