Two days after the rental site Airbnb announced it would stop listing properties in illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, an Airbnb official told The Times of Israel on November 21 that it would consider dropping listings in Western Sahara as well. “In the statement we issued on Monday, we noted that we have developed a framework for evaluating how we should treat listings in occupied territories around the world. Western Sahara is one example of a place where we will use this framework,” the official said.
The move came in anticipation of the Human Rights Watch report “Bed and Breakfast on Stolen Land,” published on November 20, in which the human rights watchdog called on global travel companies Airbnb and Booking.com to stop listing rentals on illegally acquired land. According to the detailed report, Airbnb listed at least 139 properties in Israeli settlements, excluding East Jerusalem, between March and July 2018. Booking.com had 26 as of July 2018.
The decision by Airbnb to stop listing properties in unlawful Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is a positive step that other global tourism companies should follow, Human Rights Watch and Kerem Navot said in issuing a report about Airbnb and Booking.com’s activities in settlements.
Airbnb said its decision to remove the listings came after extensive consultations with experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The company said that as an industry leader, it “must consider the impact we have and act responsibly,” reported The Times of Israel. Airbnb developed a framework for evaluating how it should treat listings in disputed territories. This framework requires Airbnb to recognize that each situation is unique and requires a case-by-case approach; consult with a range of experts and community of stakeholders; assess any potential safety risks for its hosts and guests; evaluate whether the existence of listings is contributing to existing human suffering; and determine whether the existence of listings in the occupied territory has a direct connection to the larger conflict.
As of Tuesday, November 27, there were 20 listings in Western Sahara on Airbnb. Hotels in Western Sahara listed by Booking.com are harder to trace as they are listed under Morocco, but main tourists destinations such as Laayoune and Dakhla had at least 50 listings.
To date Booking.com has yet to publicly comment on the Human Rights Watch report or Airbnb’s initiative.