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Airbnb co-founder: We are 'fundamentally opposed' to Trump's travel ban

Melody Hahm
Senior Writer

Airbnb has been one of the loudest critics of President Donald Trump’s executive order that indefinitely bars citizens of seven countries from traveling to the U.S.

The White House issued a fresh executive order on Sunday after an initial ban faced several court challenges. And while officials said they put in more detailed analysis in determining the restrictions, Airbnb co-founder and chief strategy officer Nate Blecharczyk says “it’s still a travel ban.”

“A travel ban is something we’re fundamentally opposed to. Our mission is to create a world where you can belong anywhere. It’s fundamentally about bringing people together, connecting people, promoting understanding and belonging. And a ban doesn’t do that. We think there has to be a better way. There’s too many people who are, innocent people, who are affected by that,” Blecharczyk told Yahoo Finance at the Skift Global Forum.

Airbnb has a history of connecting hosts who are willing to open up their homes with those in need. The impetus was during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, when an Airbnb host tweeted that she was opening up her room free of charge. A thousand hosts stepped up to house individuals and families during the storm, according to Blecharczyk.

But Airbnb took a declarative political stance in February, when the startup aired a Super Bowl ad that focused on inclusion of refugees and immigrants. Trump had signed the first executive order just a week prior to the football game.

“We have seen people specifically join to provide people free accommodation during a time of need. We’ve also made a pledge to help with refugees who are new to this country who need a place for a week or two before getting permanently housed,” Blecharczyk said.

Through that concerted effort, he says several people joined the platform for the first time — to open up their homes in times of crisis.

Airbnb helped facilitate free housing for over 3,000 residents in areas affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and the Central Mexico Earthquake.

“It’s really cool to step up and pull a community together in times of need. Of course, these are tragedies when these events happen, but it is really inspiring to see people rally together,” Blecharczyk said.

Airbnb’s discrimination problem

While the company has been championing itself as an all-inclusive platform, it’s dealing with its fair share of high-profile controversies, where hosts have discriminated guests based on their race.

In order to attempt to address this growing problem, Airbnb hired former US Attorney General Eric Holder to draft a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy. The company has also partnered with The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in an attempt to recruit black hosts.

“About a year and a half ago, we started noticing discrimination on our platform, and this is something that is in opposition of our mission. Our platform only works when people accept each other,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said on “CBS This Morning” Monday.

Now, hosts have to sign a commitment that says they won’t discriminate against people and will be penalized if they do. Earlier this year, Airbnb banned a host and fined them $5,000 for canceling a reservation because the guest was Asian.

Soon, California regulators will be able to test select hosts for racial discrimination. As Airbnb grows in scale and scope, it will continue to experience growing pains. But, Blecharczyk says the company is dedicated to its philosophy of inclusion.

Melody Hahm is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

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