Airbnb discrimination policy is unfair and allows guests to discriminate against hosts.

Level 2
Odiham, United Kingdom

Airbnb discrimination policy is unfair and allows guests to discriminate against hosts.

The policy on discrimination that airbnb updated awhile back actually allows guests to discriminate against hosts due to the fact that a guest can see a hosts photo before they decide to book. This allows a would be guest to decide they don't like the look of someone based on the age, skin colour or just general appearance. However, a host cannot see a guest profile photo until the booking is confirmed.


As the years roll by, I've been a host since 2014 guest profiles have no content: empty of a photo, empty of any informations about who they, what they do etc etc - information that used to be provided to ease the introduction to a stranger come to stay in your home. Many guests don't have any reviews so what is there to go on? Nothing.


I'm all for policies that support anti discriminatory behaviour but in the case of airbnb's it's a very uneven handed rule that has been imposed to the detriment of the airbnb host/guest experience.


As the airbnb operator said just now when I called to lodge my complaint, data gleaned by airbnb indicates that African American guests were being discriminated against getting bookings. Well I don't live in the USA and we don't have that many African Americans labelled as such in the UK. The UK is a long establish multi-racial society and we don't identify African, Indian, Asian nationals as such we call them British.  Airbnb is an American company that is showing is lack of cultural awareness in other countries, allowing discrimination against hosts and not making it safer for hosts who live alone who open their homes to strangers. My complaint to airbnb has not been taken seriously. So I'm putting this out to other host members to get some idea how many of us feel this way about withholding guest photos until after a booking is confirmed. 

17 Replies 17
Level 2
Odiham, United Kingdom

Replying to myself - in case anyone is wondering I've just updated my profile photo to a piece of artwork I made for my garden. Let's see how that goes.



I am interested in how this photo change goes for you.


We are from a very diverse region - the SF Bay Area in California. I was born in a diverse neighborhood, hearing many languages; enjoying the foods and festivals of many cultures.  I thrive on that energy. My studies have been in Cultural Anthropology so, the more diverse the ingredients, the better is the "stew" that I love so much in my life. 


Still, it is an act of faith that our guests have read the listing, know what is here - and not - and know why they are coming. That is enough, and I hope they pay attention to more than the pretty pictures. So far, so good!  I want all their surprises to be good ones. 


I have often wondered what effect our host photo and bio have for our guests' decisions in choosing to stay with us. Perhaps it is positive or perhaps not. Perhaps our younger travelers are happy staying with people old enough to be their grandparents, perhaps not. I do wonder. Creek is very blond and very fair of skin, obvious in our profile picture. Does this encourage booking, or not? We are just being ourselves. There is a lot of information in our bio, just as in our collection of photos. I hope prospective guests read and understand. We've taken a lot of care in creating our listing.


Thank you for bringing this interesting topic for conversation. 



Hello Kitty. Thank you for taking the time to read my post and replying with a kind and thoughtful response. The issue I raise is regarding my criticism of airbnb's policy on anti discrimination - the uneven handedness of applying their policy one way. I changed my photo as a protest against their ridiculous policy on discrimination.


The policy does not prevent the guest discriminating against a host if they don't like their photo because they can see it before booking but the host cannot see the guest profile photo until they've booked. That's the issue and I have not had an explanation for this from airbnb.

Former Community Manager
Former Community Manager
Terneuzen, Netherlands

@Linda844 That's an interesting test, I'd love to hear about your findings if you don't mind keeping us posted! 😃


Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about this as well, I can imagine why you'd feel like this is a one-way street so I'll forward your and other Host's feedback on this to the right teams.



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Level 2
Odiham, United Kingdom

Hello Sybe. My photo change is a protest - not a test. I'm not expecting any findings. As much as everyone likes to talk about their feelings these day (and then notice how the actual subject gets sidelined), let me be clear I'm not talking about my feelings, the subject that needs to be addressed by airbnb is the unfair discrimination policy re guest photos witholding prior to booking.


In trying to do one thing right airbnb has created more problems for itself and that is the breakdown of the trust factor between guest and host which should start with transparency. As I've already stated in my original post so many guests these days don't write a profile - often they don't have any reviews - and they don't even bother to say why they would like to stay in someone's home - so then it's left to the host to ask until they're satisfied that this stranger is probably ok. Witholding photos is just another step away from the original founding principles of airbnb back in the day. Now the guest host relationship is boiled down to a transaction of a bed for £ and not much else matters, or so it seems. For this reason I do far less airbnb these days and prefer to use spare room for finding guests.

Level 10
Swannanoa, NC

@Linda844   You have made a good point.  I also have been renting for years, and it was so wonderful to see who my potential guests were, learn where they were travelling from, get a glimpse as to their interests, etc.  Then the OTAs took all of that away in the name of privacy and discrimination.  My listings are not for shared spaces, so I cannot imagine how a home-share host feels about AirBnB hiding all information about the stranger who is about to enter their home and how information about the host could conversely put that host in danger -- rent the room from the old lady and then become a squatter who won't leave.


My properties are stand-alone, and my guests will rarely see me or my staff.  Perhaps I should reconsider my listings and remove my picture and limit the information I share as well.  After all, I wouldn't want to be discriminated against because I am of a certain gender, ethnic persuasion and have a successful business.  

Level 10
Placencia, Belize

Airbnb is caught up in the same dilemma many entities face today and that is to try to achieve certain outcomes with rules limiting information. Tricky business.

Level 10
England, United Kingdom

@Linda844 if you look at the latest results from the 10 yearly census you will see that Britain is no different to the USA as we have white British, Asian British etc. Also there is discrimination in the UK whether we like it/admit it or not.

I would hope our profile picture is not going to put anyone off but if it does then I guess I would prefer them to go somewhere else if they are more comfortable doing so.

Thanks for commenting. My focus really is the principle of an unfair policy - airbnb trying to control racial bias by withholding a guest photo until booked meanwhile a guest can apply their own racial bias (or any other bias/preference) because the host photo is available to see pre-booking.


Airbnb is also regarding all hosts in the same way - that we all apply whatever prejudice/ racial bias in deciding whether to accept a guest or not.

@Linda844 Have you read the Airbnb reports on discrimination? The body producing the report did a statistical analysis of booking rejections that was compelling. I applaud any efforts to stop the discrimination they demonstrated.

Level 10
Kingston, Jamaica


I get you and agree that Airbnb is skewed towards guests rather than hosts but I do see, when browsing the airbnb site, that some hosts do not have photos of themselves but rather other images.   I'll keep my profile pic of myself up, though; cause anybody thinking of booking and don't like how I look can tek weh demself (go somewhere else) 😆😆

Level 10
Gros Islet, Saint Lucia



I totally agree with you about having a photo of myself on my profile.  I don't want guests who feel uncomfortable with renting from us based upon how we look.  It's already difficult enough with dealing with the ones who don't read the listing details, abusively use the provided amenities, or didn't do any research before arriving and expect us to be their activities coordinator.

Level 2
New York, NY

WoW Linda,


Thanks for pulling my coat so to speak!. A person's face, and perhaps race do factor in when a guest decides to book a place but to what degree?. I also know that the area, cost, amenities, proximity  to mass transit, night life/ local restuarnts,l events ,  reviews   even house rules are all taken into account when a savvy guest books a place.


One indicator of skepticism because I can't prove that it is was discrimination. Is when guests ask is my area safe? and several others wanted to visit before booking. I believe that some of my guest are (xenophobic) have never even lived with or may not know a person outside of their race but will make the exception. When it depends on their career or job and feel relatively safe doing so because its Airbnb.


I'm the new kid on the block and only do long term, 31+ days and have been busy for 1.5 years and finally. NO bookings and it feels good. I've had some great experiences and some really bad ones In my short time as a host.  I believe its because guests becaome complacent after 30 days and feel that they can do whatever they want.


As one previous host said: Not the exact quote but something like,  if they don't like what they see, then they can go elsewhere!  but I am in no way siding with Airbnb when It comes to letting the guest see who the host is to ease their doubts before booking when host can't do the same!. Furthermore and on second thought,  I'll leave my image up, so they don't have to guess who's coming to dinner!

Level 10
Zagreb, Croatia

@Linda844  I agree with you

I remember when Airbnb decided to hide guests' profile photos before booking and there were many complaints from hosts at the time. Of course, to no avail.


Coming from one, generally not discriminatory country, as time goes by, I've noticed that too many anti-discriminatory discussions and rules have the opposite effect on me.  It's the law of physics - every action causes a reaction. 


The whole world tries to avoid problems based on their own experiences and probability.  Generalization is the way our brains work otherwise we would remain at the infant level our whole life.  But, hosts are very liberal bc if we would regularly decline short-time guests based on whatever... then our rentals would be pretty empty most of the time. We are working in the tourism sector after all and we are used to hosting different people. On contrary - hosts are the most skeptical about locals.


Luckily, short-term guests are not as risky as long-term tenants simply because they are staying short. I am much pickier with long-term tenants and that's why I don't list my long-term properties on Airbnb or Booking or any other OTA.


And one more thing.... if some host would discriminate against me because of my nationality or skin color then it is better if he declines my request BEFORE booking, than when I show up at his doorstep.