Safety a pri­or­ity, says Airbnb

The Timaru Herald - - NEWS - Samesh Mo­han­lall

Homes­tay gi­ant Airbnb has hit back at claims by the South Can­ter­bury hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor that health and safety is­sues were not suf­fi­ciently ad­dressed at its hosts’ res­i­dences.

Brent Thomas, the com­pany’s head of pub­lic pol­icy for Aus­tralia and New Zealand, said safety was a pri­or­ity and all hosts had to cer­tify that they fol­lowed all lo­cal laws and reg­u­la­tions.

‘‘Ev­ery list­ing on Airbnb clearly states the spe­cific safety ameni­ties it has, in­clud­ing smoke and car­bon monox­ide de­tec­tors, fire ex­tin­guish­ers and first aid kits.

‘‘We also work with hosts to keep them­selves, their homes and their guests safe by de­liv­er­ing home safety work­shops with trusted ex­perts and of­fer hosts free smoke and car­bon monox­ide alarms.’’

Thomas said the homes­tay provider had its own Trust and Safety de­part­ment which had of­fices all over the world.

‘‘Our team is made up of en­gi­neers, 24/7 re­sponse agents, data sci­en­tists, prod­uct man­agers, de­sign­ers, lawen­force­ment li­aisons, cri­sis man­agers, and vic­tim-ad­vo­cacy spe­cial­ists, in ad­di­tion to pol­icy, pri­vacy, cy­ber se­cu­rity, in­surance, and fraud ex­perts – all work­ing to­gether to keep our com­mu­nity safe,’’ he said.

Thomas said given in­ci­dents such as the ho­tel fire in Napier last year, more work needed to be con­ducted across the board through­out the travel and tourism in­dus­try.

Hos­pi­tal­ity As­so­ci­a­tion South Can­ter­bury ac­com­mo­da­tion sec­tor chair­man and Av­enue Mo­tor Lodge owner Mark Of­fen said last week that health and safety is­sues at homes­tay providers should be ur­gently ad­dressed by the au­thor­i­ties.

Of­fen said en­sur­ing the safety of guests should be a pri­or­ity but au­thor­i­ties over­looked this with homes­tay ac­com­mo­da­tion.

He said a build­ing war­rant of fit­ness was an ex­am­ple of an an­nual cost which was com­pul­sory for com­mer­cial ac­com­mo­da­tion providers but not im­posed on homes­tay ri­vals.

Thomas said the homes­tay provider was con­stantly work­ing to im­prove its plat­form and poli­cies ‘‘be­cause even one in­ci­dent is one too many’’.

All guests and hosts glob­ally were screened thor­oughly and were re­quested to ‘‘fol­low our high com­mu­nity stan­dards’’.

‘‘Our re­view sys­tem en­ables you to see what other com­mu­nity mem­bers have said about a po­ten­tial guest, host, or home,’’ he said.

‘‘Guests and hosts pub­licly re­view each other and can only do so af­ter the reser­va­tion is com­plete, so you know the feed­back is based on ac­tual ex­pe­ri­ences,’’ Thomas said.

A WorkSafe spokesper­son said yes­ter­day that those pro­vid­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion through Airbnb or Book a Bach-type ar­range­ments had obli­ga­tions un­der the Health and Safety at Work Act.

‘‘Ac­com­mo­da­tion providers are not a pri­or­ity area for WorkSafe and will there­fore very rarely re­quire an as­sess­ment visit from us. WorkSafe may be­come in­volved if an in­ci­dent oc­curs.’’

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