Airbnb cancels all Washington bookings during inauguration week

The accommodation booking platform will block and cancel reservations in the area ahead of January 20

Airbnb will block and cancel all bookings in the Washington metro area before President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on January 20.

The accommodation rental platform said it will cancel existing bookings and block any new reservations made during inauguration week.

The decision was made after local, state and federal officials asked people not to travel to the capital.

"Airbnb's work continues to be informed by inputs from our local host community as well as Washington officials, Metro Police and members of Congress throughout this week," explained the short-term rental company in a statement.

Travellers who have their bookings cancelled will be refunded in full. Airbnb will also reimburse hosts for the potential earnings they will lose on cancelled stays.

Guests who booked accommodation in the area via the Airbnb-owned HotelTonight website, which offers last-minute stays at luxury hotels, will also have their bookings cancelled and refunded.

Airbnb initially said it would reassess reservations in the area and cancel any bookings associated with hate groups. The new decision takes a harder line due to threats of violence after the breach of the Capitol building last week.

"We are aware of reports emerging yesterday afternoon regarding armed militias and known hate groups that are attempting to travel and disrupt the inauguration," said Airbnb.

The company based in San Francisco has also acted to block anyone identified in being involved in the siege of the Capitol on January 6 from its platform.

Airbnb did not reveal how many bookings would be cancelled due to this decision, but hosts in the area typically see a sharp rise in demand around inauguration day, regardless of which party is taking office.

In 2017, Airbnb reported it was expecting to host around 15,000 guests in properties in the region, which was more than 10 times the number of rentals booked over inauguration day in 2013.