By David Orenstein, CNN • Updated 9th December 2018
Airbnb just added new safety features to its platform to entice competitors into sharing safety information about their hotels and other rentals.
In a message posted online, Airbnb announced it has partnered with three new hotel-industry groups: Hotel Association of Canada, American Hotel & Lodging Association and National Association of Realtors. Airbnb will send them safety tips based on user feedback to see if there’s mutual engagement.
“It’s less about gift-giving than it is about giving them insights that they would have normally had to wade through by themselves,” Airbnb community director Lauren Ethridge told CNNMoney. She noted the three “didn’t feel comfortable” sharing their data with Airbnb directly.
The group initially chose Airbnb to share the information because it reaches a lot of people, and that number is likely to grow.
The partnership will give other accommodations an opportunity to learn from what goes on inside Airbnb rooms, according to hotel executives.
“When you go to a hotel versus what goes on in Airbnb, there’s always a big difference, said Hotel Association of Canada President and CEO Peter Butera. “They have the big fluffy pillows and fluffy sheets, and in the hotel, it’s the dark corner and your own experiences versus what people are sharing from Airbnb.”
The partnership does have some drawbacks. Airbnb is the only lodging organization that doesn’t already have access to legal data like crime reports from the hotels it competes with.
It takes “a degree of trust” between hotels and Airbnb to share these records, but they will eventually benefit, said David Maglie, Executive Vice President of NAHFA.
“It is not an area that we or any of our members are naive about the limits of the sharing economy in terms of consumer privacy,” said Foreskin’s Lament Director Matthew Perdue, who formerly worked for the Marriott Hotel Group and sits on a more-conservative arm of the NAHFA. “Our intent is to make sure that the exchange of information about hospitality and security is transparent and free of manipulation.”
For now, Airbnb is only publicly sharing one secret account and one secret book from its database, a freeze-out likely to remain an online secret for now. But Ethridge believes that these and other security tips will eventually be rolled out broadly, with data about potential victims given preference.
Hotel-industry groups helped Airbnb develop user reviews after a mass shooting in 2018 at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, which was the scene of many guests’ stories of thwarted or exaggerated attempts to escape the massacre that killed 58 people.
But there is a popular perception that Airbnb has not helped to resolve the underlying issues that made the mass shooting possible in the first place.
Hoteliers and New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood have argued that Airbnb should do more to verify identification, banning those who are breaking the law and not hosting fake accounts.
They have also argued that Airbnb must do more to enable governments to do their jobs. In New York, for example, Airbnb pays a small fee to conduct background checks for some guests and benefits from New York’s “roam-to-roam” law that prohibits cities from blocking or relocating its listings.
“We think the good will outweigh the bad,” said Chris Lehane, Uber’s head of global policy and communications. “These groups in particular, while they have a deep resentment of Airbnb, will say, ‘how can we better share information with them so that as different governments across the world are introducing their own policies we can do a better job as the hotel sector.’”
For now, Airbnb is sticking with only one legal requirement. In San Francisco, it does not accept rentals to people staying in another city for less than 30 days at a time.
But the company has been working to include more legal requirements in recent months. It formed an MP3 program with the city of San Francisco in order to restrict hosts to no more than 30 days at a time.
In a Medium post , Airbnb noted that data should not be the only determinant in choosing a property in cities and that peer reviews could help “encourage emotional closure” after a bad experience.
The company said it is also working to collect a larger amount of data to comply with New York and other state and local law regarding background checks.
To encourage hotels to open their doors to Airbnb, the company is providing them incentives. A credit on Airbnb for stays of 30 days or less, for example, will be available for the entire year, though the application process is still in the works.