Airbnb’s Data ‘Portal’ Promises a Better Relationship With Cities

Article by Patrick Sisson: “When startups go public, a big part of the process is opening up their books and being more transparent about their business model. With global short-term rental giant Airbnb moving towards its own IPO, the company has introduced a new product that seeks to address recent safety concerns and answer the data-sharing requests that critics have long claimed make the company a less-than-perfect partner for local leaders. 

The Airbnb City Portal, which launched on Wednesday as a pilot program with 15 global cities and tourism agencies, aims to provide municipal staff with more efficient access to data about listings, including whether or not they’re complying with local laws. Each city, including Buffalo, San Francisco and Seattle, will have access to a new data dashboard as well as a dedicated staffer at Airbnb. Like so many of its sharing economy and Silicon Valley peers, Airbnb has had a contentious, and evolving, relationship with municipalities and local government ever since launching (an especially fraught situation in Europe, as an EU court just ruled in favor of city regulations of the site). 

At a time when so many tech platforms are wrestling, often unsuccessfully, with the need to moderate the behavior of bad actors who use the site, Airbnb’s City Portal is an attempt to “productize” how the home-sharing site works with local government, says Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s senior vice president for global policy and communications. It’s a more useful framework to access information and report violations, he says. And it delivers on the platform’s long-term goals around sharing data, paying taxes and working with cities on regulation. He frames the move as part of a balancing act around the security and safety responsibilities of local governments and a private global company.

The dashboard will also be useful for local tourism officials: It will provide visitor information, including city of origin and demographic information, that helps bureaus better target their advertising and marketing campaigns….(More)”