Feb 27th, 2017, 12:39 PM

Airbnb Founder Stirs Controversy After Trump's Travel Ban

By Signi Livingstone-Peters
Image Credit: The Boston Globe
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky offers free housing to thousands of "stranded" refugees.

Airbnb. You've probably heard of it, regardless of whether you're a student, a traveler, business professional. A modern spin on traditional bed and breakfasts, Airbnb offers lodging for travelers, enabling them to rent short or long term places to stay. The online company offers accommodations for every budget — castles, villas, studio apartments, even just a couch to sleep on.

Image Credit: www.galvanize.com

Founded in 2008, CEO Brian Chesky founded Airbnb with the aim to "live in this world where one day you can feel like you're home anywhere and not in a home, but truly home, where you belong. To live in this world where you can be home, you have to provide hospitality and hosts provide hospitality." 

This statement rings true to CEO Brian Chesky's recent stand with his wildly successful company reaching out to those affected — or "stranded" — by recently elected President Trump's travel ban, a diplomatic measure passed on January 26 prohibiting refugees from entering the  United States for 120 days as well as immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations for three months. The countries affected are Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia.

Trump signing travel ban executive order. Image Credit: www.voanews.com

On January 29th, shortly after President Trump's law was passed, Chesky announced Air B&B's new policy via twitter. 

Image Credit: https://twitter.com/bchesky

Chesky further wrote, "Opening doors brings all of US together. Closing doors further divides us. Let’s all find ways to connect people not separate them. Not allowing countries or refugees into America is not right, and we must stand with those who are affected."

Image Credit: Travelers Today

Airbnb relies on a worldwide network of thousands of "hosts" who rent out couches, rooms, and entire houses and apartments to strangers passing through, or even stay long term.

I have experience with house-sharing, as I grew up in a minuscule, quintessential college town of Middlebury, Vermont. With only one hotel in the town, my parents saw a market. They decided to begin to rent out our home with Airbnb. Our home became rented to visitors during busy times, aimed at college parents who look for cheaper accommodation while visiting. Our family provided a more "homey" feel during big weekends such as graduation. Due to examples such as mine, Airbnb provides natural competition with local hotels.

According to Quartz, "Airbnb's entire business model is predicated on people immersing themselves in a variety of cultures." This culture cannot be found in the worldwide monotony of hotel chains, therefore competing directly with one of Trump's largest and well-known business assets: hotels. As stated in The New York Times: "Ever since Airbnb entered the lodging scene in 2008, the hotel industry has cast a wary eye, noting its popularity with young travelers. Despite a strong year for hotels — occupancy and rates broke records in 2015, according to the data firm STR — anxiety may be creeping into those corporate suites." The wildly growing popularity of Airbnb draws a metaphorical line across not only Trump's hotels but creates controversy in his recent travel ban as more and more Airbnb hosts open their homes to refugees in need.

Luxury Trump Hotel in Vancouver, BC. Image Credit: www.trumphotels.com

On February 7, 2016, Airbnb released an ad played during the Super Bowl 51, with millions of viewers "noted for its criticism of President Donald Trump's anti-immigration ban" sparked controversy with  the text "We believe no matter who you are, where you're from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept" over a montage of different faces. The TV ad first ran during Super Bowl 51, where commercials were selling for approximately $5 million for 30-seconds, due to the immense amount of viewers. 

Airbnb Super Bowl Commercial 2017 (We Accept)

According to 'Unruly", a social video marketing company, Airbnb's brief yet moving ad was the third most shared Super Bowl ad in 2017, when brands were paying a whopping $5 million for thirty seconds. 

"Critics have expressed concern that the policy represents growing nationalism and far-right politics in the US," reported The Independent newspaper. Yet, perhaps influential and humanitarian focused Airbnb's Brian Chesky, a world business leader arguably just as successful as President Trump, will provide not only places of refuge from war fleeing individuals, but create a movement that will constitute a controversial attitude toward dehumanizing actions but educate those with corrupted or ignorant views on humanitarian issues as well as generate a call to action, encouraging people to donate, as well as open their homes.

"Home is where we feel the greatest sense of belonging. The refugee crisis in the Middle East, Northern Africa and Europe has resulted in over 60 million people being displaced from their homes in one of the greatest humanitarian challenges of the modern era."

Get Involved with Syrian Organizations 

AUP professor and political activist Ziad Majed provides insight on the ongoing humanitarian conflict during his lecture "Syria and the World," stating the background and main causes of the crisis as well as what we can do as a global community to find a solution.

Show your support for refugees by using the hashtag "WithRefugees or #BelongAnywhere on Twitter, to help influence our global body and raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis that these refugees face, and hashtag "WithRefugees or #BelongAnywhere on Twitter, to help influence our global body and raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis that these refugees face, and much-needed resources to help meet basic needs of those forced to leave their countries around the world.

You may also join Airbnb in supporting refugees by making a "tangible contribution to the relief efforts by donating to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency."