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Airbnb Has Some Breathtaking Listings in ‘Shithole’ Countries

January 14, 2018, 4:06 PM UTC

Responding to President Donald Trump’s reported denigrating comments in a meeting on immigration, vacation-rental platform Airbnb says it will spend at least $100,000 on digital ads promoting listings in Haiti, El Salvador and African countries.

Airbnb says the 75,000 hosts in those locales earned $170 million in 2017, during an expansion push there. The company says it wants to “encourage more travelers to visit these special and beautiful places,” as part of “our mission to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere.”

Following Trump’s remarks, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky also highlighted several Airbnb listings on Twitter, including sites in Kenya, Ghana, and Haiti.

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Kenya and Ghana are among the nations least fairly maligned by Trump’s alleged comments. Both have strengthening civil institutions and saw very healthy 2017 GDP growth – 6.1% for Ghana and 5.5% for Kenya, according to the World Bank. Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, has been described as Africa’s Silicon Valley. Foreign investment is accelerating across Africa, substantially driven by China – suggesting that outdated views of Africa are leading to missed opportunities for American influence there.

Trump’s comment, which he has denied but which were confirmed by Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, adds to a growing list of White House initiatives and stances widely seen as racist. Airbnb has cannily translated its cosmopolitan ethos into a series of headline-grabbing gestures pushing back against them. It offered free housing to those impacted by Trump’s attempted ban on travel from some Muslim countries, and ran a Super Bowl ad critical of isolationism. Airbnb later preemptively canceled the accounts of white nationalists attending a Charlottesville rally. When that rally turned deadly, Trump was slow to condemn racist demonstrators.

Airbnb is not without its own problems, though, with both specific incidents and careful research highlighting racial discrimination by some hosts on the platform. Airbnb has adopted several initiatives and partnerships to try and remedy the problem.