Short-term rental site VRBO does not plan to cancel reservations in the DC area during the inauguration next week, even though competitor Airbnb has already done so. First reported by BuzzFeed News, VRBO said in a blog post Friday afternoon that it was “encouraging hosts to cancel bookings during this time,” if they believed a guest was violating its policies, but stopped short of a blanket cancellation.
Following the January 6th attack on the Capitol that left six people dead, DC-area officials said in a joint statement that they were “encouraging Americans not to come to Washington, D.C. and to instead participate virtually” in the inauguration.
VRBO acknowledges in its blog post that officials were “reporting the potential for violence and armed protests” in DC and state capitals in the coming weeks. “The safety of our guests and hosts is of the utmost importance to us,” the blog post states. “If you plan to travel during this time, please follow local governmental regulations and check the latest news for updates.”
Airbnb is blocking all reservations in the Washington, DC metro area during inauguration week. Airbnb said it was aware of reports “regarding armed militias and known hate groups” that planned to come to DC to try to disrupt the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Existing Airbnb reservations were canceled, providing full refunds to guests, and Airbnb said it would compensate hosts — the rental property owners— the amount they would have made for the canceled bookings. Airbnb had said earlier it was working to ban members of the mob that attacked the Capitol from its platform, and had banned some people who were either part of the mob or connected to hate groups.
VRBO did not immediately reply to a request for comment Saturday from The Verge. However, VRBO parent company Expedia emailed a statement saying it is “committed to partnering with government officials, law enforcement, and community leaders as they work to secure the nation’s capital leading up to the presidential inauguration.”
The company has “activated crisis response teams throughout Expedia Group and launched extraordinary emergency procedures, including the holistic, manual review of all Washington, D.C.-area bookings across all lines of business” which includes VRBO, the statement from Expedia reads. The company is evaluating new bookings through January 24th to assess risk, and “if necessary, we will take appropriate action in coordination with law enforcement.”
Update: January 16th 5:07PM ET: Added statement from VRBO parent company Expedia Group