Welcome To Airbnb

In this toolkit, you will see what Airbnb is and how it works.
Your hosting style is up to you. This information isn’t intended as rules, policies or requirements that you must follow. You can use this resource as you see fit. Use the links at the right to jump to sections that interest you, or click Start to begin.

Understanding Bias and Belonging

Creating a world of belonging

We envision a world where anyone can belong anywhere.
Being a member of the Airbnb community means connecting with people across continents, cultures, and lifestyles. Discrimination prevents these meaningful connections and goes against the values at Airbnb’s core. In order to build a truly global community, we have a policy that prohibits discrimination.
To help our members understand discrimination and the biases that cause it, we’ve partnered with prominent social psychologists Dr. Robert W. Livingston of Harvard University and Dr. Peter Glick of Lawrence University.
Together, we’ve created this toolkit exploring bias and other factors that influence people’s decisions, even without their knowledge. There are several sections, and each one takes only a few minutes to complete. We hope you’ll come away with a better understanding of biases and how you can take action against them as an Airbnb host.

Source: Airbnb
Understanding Bias and Belonging

The basics of bias

There’s an important difference between bias and discrimination. “Bias” refers to feelings or assumptions about a person based on their group. “Discrimination” is behaving differently toward someone based on their group.
In other words, bias happens in the mind; discrimination happens through actions. Bias doesn’t always lead to discrimination, but it’s usually where discrimination starts. The good news is that discrimination is more controllable and avoidable than bias.

Tip: Use the same standards for everyone

Create a set of objective criteria that you use to evaluate potential guests. It could be the number of reviews they have or how many people are in their party. Then, stick to these criteria for every guest, every time. If your criteria are inconsistent from situation to situation, bias may creep into your decision-making. Also, be sure to set your reservation preferences and keep your availability calendar up to date so you’re more likely to be able to accept the booking requests you receive.

Understanding Bias and Belonging

The changing face of racial and ethnic bias

For much of our history, bias and discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities looked very different than it does today—think about the segregation laws that have been overturned and condemned in the last century. Because it’s usually less overt today, many people may assume that racial and ethnic bias no longer exists, when in fact, it has merely changed form.
Today’s bias exists largely at a subconscious level and is often called “implicit bias.” The problem is that implicit bias sometimes creeps out and influences how we treat people, causing us to discriminate. This is most likely to happen when we’re confronted with mixed, vague, or ambiguous information. In these cases, the color of a person’s skin may subconsciously impact our behavior towards them, while we consciously tell ourselves that our behavior was based on factors totally unrelated to race or ethnicity.
Dr. Robert W. Livingston—a Harvard social psychologist with 20 years of experience studying diversity, leadership, and social justice—explains how racial and ethnic bias has changed over time and how to recognize the ambiguous situations that trigger it today.

Source: Airbnb
Tip: Use mindful decision making

Before accepting or rejecting a guest, determine why you’ve made the decision and challenge yourself to give a rigorous explanation. Ask yourself if you’d be comfortable having to tell the guest face-to-face the reason why they were declined.

Understanding Bias and Belonging

Story from the community

Melanie had heard great things about Airbnb from friends and decided to give it a try for her first trip to Los Angeles. She filled out her profile with a nice photo and bio, and then began her search.
She found a listing she liked in a cool neighborhood and sent an inquiry to the host, only to be told her requested dates had just become unavailable. Melanie didn’t think much of it and reached out to another host who told her the same thing. On her third attempt, that host never replied at all. Looking again at the listings she had previously contacted, Melanie noticed their calendars remained available for her requested dates.
She wondered why she was having such a hard time, and if it might have something to do with her race. So she changed her profile picture, which had been a picture of her face, to a picture of her cat. She was immediately accepted by the next host she contacted.
In the end, Melanie had a pleasant trip, but this couldn't erase the hurt of feeling like she'd been prejudged.
Based on real stories shared with Airbnb. Details changed to protect anonymity.

Airbnb is taking steps to help prevent anyone from experiencing a situation like Melanie’s ever again. In addition to this toolkit, we’ve instituted a policy called Open Doors—if any guest feels that they’ve been discriminated against at any point during their Airbnb experience, we’ll find them a similar place to stay on Airbnb or elsewhere.

Understanding Bias and Belonging

LGBTQ and gender-based bias

Gender roles are deeply rooted in our society and—whether we’re conscious of it or not—most of us use them to make determinations about how we think people should act. Consider these examples: Girls should play with dolls; boys should play with trucks. Women should be nurturing; men should be strong. When we let these ideas influence how we treat people or what we expect of them, we engage in gender discrimination, commonly known as sexism.
Gender stereotypes also have significant implications for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer) people. Because their identities challenge societal norms, like heterosexuality or conventional gender roles, they often experience bias—ranging from mild discomfort to extreme hostility.
Sometimes these biases are based on religious traditions, and while these traditions may hold an important role in people’s lives, extending hospitality towards others does not require the adoption of their views or lifestyle. Respecting and welcoming differences in background, identity, and culture are essential to Airbnb’s mission of belonging.
Dr. Peter Glick—a prominent expert on gender bias and professor at Lawrence University—discusses some of the many reasons LGBTQ bias exists and its effect on those who experience it.

Source: Airbnb
Tip: Practice empathy

It may sound obvious, but empathy goes a long way. Imagine that you’re in someone else’s shoes and try to understand how they might be feeling. Think about the hurt, inconvenience, and indignity that someone may face when being denied the opportunity to book a place solely because they are different.

Understanding Bias and Belonging

Story from the community

Lina and Pam, a lesbian couple from Atlanta, were having a pleasant stay in Seattle until their host mentioned that he wished he had known they were gay before their arrival. After all, he explained, their home is a “family home” where they host get-togethers, and it would have been hard to explain two women sharing a room.
This shocked Lina and Pam, especially because their reservation request had begun with “My girlfriend and I…” So, not only did they feel unwelcome in the home, but they also felt wrongfully accused of being misleading.
Although the interaction did not become confrontational, Lina and Pam left as soon as possible, feeling very alienated.
Based on real stories shared with Airbnb. Details changed to protect anonymity.

Airbnb is taking steps to help prevent anyone from experiencing a situation like Lina and Pam's ever again. In addition to this educational toolkit, we’ve instituted a policy called Open Doors—if any guest feels that they’ve been discriminated against at any point during their Airbnb experience, we’ll find them a similar place to stay on Airbnb or elsewhere.

Understanding Bias and Belonging

Why we stereotype

One of the ways bias displays itself in our society is through stereotyping. A stereotype is a widely held but oversimplified or exaggerated image or idea of a particular type of person. While it’s possible to find some individuals who confirm the stereotype, it almost never applies to an entire group, or even the majority. Everyone uses stereotypes to a certain extent—sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. But if they're exaggerated and potentially inaccurate, why do we let them influence our behavior, and how do our brains even arrive at them? There are multiple origins of stereotypes but we will elaborate on two, which we refer to as "shortcuts" and "standouts”.

  • Shortcuts

    We can only process a small percentage of the millions of bits of information we take in every second. So the human brain has evolved to quickly scan people (or objects) for traits that make them similar to others. We then assume the traits of all the people in a given group are the same, and this results in stereotyping.

  • Standouts

    When someone is different from the majority of a group, you’re much more likely to remember them. You’re also more likely to associate these distinctive people with the circumstances in which you encounter them.

    For example, imagine that you see a group of people being rowdy in a restaurant. If one of the group members happens to be a different race than the others, it's likely you'll associate the person who looks different with that rowdy behavior in the future—even though in reality, all of the people in the group were being rowdy.

Tip: Unlearn stereotypes

One of the few proven ways to actually reverse implicit bias is to seek out experiences and information that go against stereotypes. Get out of your comfort zone and meet diverse people—accept Airbnb guests from different walks of life. Positive contact and social interaction can reduce biases.

Understanding Bias and Belonging

Story from the community

Alec is a host in Denver. He’s had a couple of guests from South Asia and he noticed that they liked using his kitchen to cook their own meals, which he felt filled the house with unfamiliar smells. This really bothered him, so he began declining any inquiries from South Asian guests.
After finding the cooking odors of other guests also objectionable, Alec realized that he was unfairly singling out South Asian guests. He decided to change his House Rules for all guests, limiting the use of his kitchen and making only basic utensils available.
This way, Alec was able to accommodate his preferences while remaining open to different types of people.
Based on real stories shared with Airbnb. Details changed to protect anonymity.

Understanding Bias and Belonging

The consequences of stereotyping

As we’ve seen, stereotyping groups of people can often lead to discriminatory behavior, from unintentional insults to extreme cases of injustice. No act of discrimination—or any act, for that matter—exists in a vacuum. Each time a person experiences discrimination, it takes place within a complex web of life experiences that, when put together, can have a serious impact on a person’s well-being. In fact, discrimination can have negative effects on mental and even physical health.
Dr. Robert W. Livingston describes the consequences of discrimination and reveals how we as a community can help prevent them.

Source: Airbnb
Tip: Speak out

Add a message to your profile stating that you welcome guests from all walks of life. This not only signals to guests that they’re welcome, it can also inspire other hosts to embrace the values of diversity and inclusion too.

Understanding Bias and Belonging

How you can take action

Every Airbnb community member has the power to help create a better, more inclusive platform. Here again are the tips you have seen throughout this toolkit. They represent some steps everyone can take to reduce discrimination, even the kind that happens unconsciously.

Use the same standards for everyone

Create a set of objective criteria that you use to evaluate potential guests. It could be the number of reviews they have, how many people are in their party, or whether they have Verified ID. Then, stick to these criteria for every guest, every time. If your criteria are inconsistent from situation to situation, bias may creep into your decision-making. Also, be sure to set your reservation preferences and keep your availability calendar up to date so you’re more likely to be able to accept the booking requests you receive.

Practice empathy

It may sound obvious, but empathy goes a long way. Imagine that you’re in someone else’s shoes and try to understand how they might be feeling. Think about the hurt, inconvenience, and indignity that someone may face when being denied the opportunity to book a place solely because they are different.

Unlearn stereotypes

One of the few proven ways to actually reverse implicit bias is to seek out experiences and information that go against stereotypes. Get out of your comfort zone and meet diverse people––accept Airbnb guests from different walks of life. Positive contact and social interaction can reduce biases.

Use mindful decision making

Before accepting or rejecting a guest, determine why you’ve made the decision and challenge yourself to give a rigorous explanation. Ask yourself if you’d be comfortable having to tell the guest face-to-face the reason why they were declined.

Speak out

Add a message to your profile stating that you welcome guests from all walks of life. This not only signals to guests that they’re welcome, it can also inspire other hosts to embrace the values of diversity and inclusion too.

Understanding Bias and Belonging

Thank you

Thanks for taking the time to explore bias, discrimination, and how to counteract them. We’re well aware of the pervasiveness of discrimination in our society and couldn’t expect to get rid of it with a single online toolkit. But we hope that next time you’re faced with a decision where your biases could play a role, you stop and take a moment to consider your choice. Your actions could be the next step toward a world where everyone belongs.
To learn more about Airbnb’s stance on creating an inclusive community, check out our nondiscrimination resources here. If you have ideas for how Airbnb can become a more inclusive community, please email them to allbelong@airbnb.com.

Cited studies and concepts:

Broockman, D., & Kalla, J. (2016). Durably reducing transphobia: A field experiment on door-to-door canvassing. Science, 352 (6282), 220-224.
Dovidio, J. F. & Gaertner, S. L. (2000). Aversive racism and selection decisions: 1989 and 1999. Psychological Science, 11, 315-319.
Fiske, S. T., Taylor, S. E. (2013). Social Cognition: From Brains to Culture, 2nd Edition. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
Hamilton, D. L. & Gifford, R. K. (1976). Illusory correlation in interpersonal perception: A cognitive basis of stereotypic judgments. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 12, 392-407.
Macrae, C. N., Milne, A. B., & Bodenhausen, G. V. (1994). Stereotypes and energy-saving devices: A peek inside the cognitive toolbox. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 37-47.
Pearson, A. R., Dovidio, J. F., & Gaertner, S. L. (2009). The nature of contemporary prejudice: Insights from aversive racism. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 3, 314-338.
Steele, C. M. & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 797-811.
Steele, C. M. (2010). Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Tilcsik, A. (2011). Pride and Prejudice: Employment Discrimination against Openly Gay Men in the United States1. American Journal of Sociology, 117 (2), 586-626.