Addressing Hotel Guest Discrimination Claims

By John Welty Practice Leader, SUITELIFE, Venture Insurance Programs | April 02, 2017

Discrimination has been a hot topic in the news lately. The “Hate Has No Home Here” campaign, women’s marches, LGBTQ issues and Black Lives Matter protests are just a few examples of how Americans have been turning up the heat on what some view as existing but emerging threats to their race, gender, age, religion, or lifestyle.

On the corporate side, the discrimination issue has left virtually no industry untouched. In this article, we will examine the impact of the topic of discrimination as it continues to gain steam in the hospitality industry, in particular. We will also discuss examples, insurance coverages available as well as risk management tips.

With so many homeowners providing room rentals across the globe, it is not hard to imagine the variety of issues that can arise daily. A recent article in the New York Times, stated that Airbnb, the well-known home-sharing and short-term rental website, had seen numerous claims of discrimination by those renting out their homes – discrimination claims involving age, race, gender, and more. A Harvard University study found that the accusations stemmed from reports that those with “African-American sounding names” had a more difficult time securing rentals on the site.

Whether it may relate to gender identity, race, or even physical attributes, hairstyle, tattoos or political affiliation – it’s fair to say the repercussions related to accusations of discrimination are more prevalent today. Discrimination may be an age-old global problem, but people are fighting it more vocally now than ever before thanks to social progress and technology. Consider the power of the civil rights marches in the 1960s and multiply that by technical advancements that help people share information, and the result is a quickly growing movement with much less time and expense than in years past.

Discrimination: The Facts

Gender identity alone encompasses self-image, appearance, behavior or expression, which is far different from what has traditionally been recognized more simply as one’s legal sex documented on his or her birth certificate. When one considers this along with discrimination claims related to race, religion, age, and gender, there is no doubt discrimination is taking on a broader prevalence almost on a daily basis.

Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.