Vrbo blocks all 'new' DC reservations day before inauguration, following in Airbnb's footsteps

Morgan Hines, USA TODAY
·4 min read

Vacation rental platform Vrbo announced Tuesday, the day before President-elect Joe Biden is to be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, that "all new" reservations would be blocked ahead of the inauguration.

The decision came "based on updated guidance provided by government officials regarding security threats, and as part of ongoing efforts to protect the safety of travelers, partners and communities," Vrbo said in a Tweet Tuesday.

All new reservations are to be blocked through Friday "in and around" the nation's Capitol, Vrbo continued.

Vrbo's decision to block new reservations is an update to guidance issued last week after the Capitol riots in which it left decisions about canceling bookings up to its hosts.

An announcement posted to its website then noted Vrbo "does not tolerate acts of harassment, violence, or discrimination. We expect all members of our community to demonstrate respect and tolerance in all interactions with one another, both online and offline."

It continued: "We are encouraging hosts to cancel bookings during this time if they believe a guest intends to violate these policies."

Vrbo said at the time that the company reserves the right "to remove anyone from our marketplace who violates these principles" and provided its 800 number, 888-337-0843, for complaints and reports of discrimination.

The company's choice to block new bookings follows Airbnb's Wednesday announcement to cancel all reservations on Airbnb and subsidiary HotelTonight for the week of the inauguration in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

"Today, in response to various local, state and federal officials asking people not to travel to Washington, D.C., we are announcing that Airbnb will cancel reservations in the Washington, D.C. metro area during the inauguration week," Airbnb said in the statement from last week. "Additionally, we will prevent any new reservations in the Washington, D.C., area from being booked during that time by blocking such reservations."

Airbnb added that the decision was informed by input from its host community, in addition to Washington, D.C., officials; D.C. Metro Police; and members of Congress this week.

Airbnb said last week that it continues to ban from its platform people involved in the Capitol riot last week.

"We have identified numerous individuals who are either associated with known hate groups or otherwise involved in the criminal activity at the Capitol Building, and they have been banned from Airbnb’s platform," Airbnb said.

The company will fully refund any canceled reservation and reimburse hosts directly for the money they would have earned from those bookings.

There are exceptions for long-term stays and stays for medical care, Airbnb spokesperson Ben Breit told USA TODAY.

The U.S. Capitol is seen behind a fence with razor wire during sunrise on January 16, 2021 in Washington, DC.
The U.S. Capitol is seen behind a fence with razor wire during sunrise on January 16, 2021 in Washington, DC.

What are hotels doing?

While vacation rental companies have taken more serious steps, other area hotels were keeping their safety plans close to the vest after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, which will also host the swearing-in ceremony for Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

Some Hilton properties, including Capital Hilton, are near the White House and other sites. Nigel Glennie, spokesperson for Hilton, said those locations can be congregation points for both celebrations and events including protests.

"It won’t surprise you that our D.C. hotels continuously review their safety and security procedures," Glennie said.

"We don’t get into the specifics of our security posture publicly, but the preparation is always well informed and mindful of current events," Glennie said. "The teams at these hotels are very experienced and have a long history of successfully managing through major public events."

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, the vast majority of which are franchised, is putting safety and security of guests and employees first, Rob Myers, spokesperson for Wyndham, told USA TODAY.

"We have provided our hotels with additional security measures to consider, and we are encouraging them to follow guidance from local authorities," Myers said.

Hyatt is emphasizing COVID-19 mandates, which are enforced on hotel property. Most rioters did not wear masks Wednesday.

"Guests who are not willing to comply with the policy will be asked to leave the premises or may be given the option of remaining in their guestroom for the duration of their visit," said Stephen Snart, spokesperson for Hyatt.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Vrbo blocks new DC reservations before inauguration, follows Airbnb