Airbnb Reverses Decision to Remove Listings in Occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia

Airbnb has retracted its decision to remove holiday rentals listed in the occupied zones of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The company, which allows customers to rent accommodation in 191 countries worldwide, had previously decided to remove listings in Georgia’s occupied zones, as well as the West Bank, as they considered the listings to be linked to the conflicts.

“In applying the global framework of these disputed territories, Airbnb determined that the existence of the listings in these disputed territories has a direct connection to the larger conflict in the region,” read a statement by Airbnb released January 20.

Yet, in a new statement released by the company on April 9, Airbnb has reversed its decision to remove the listings. The announcement is connected to the West Bank and came after Israeli lawyers filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of property hosts and others. However, it also applies to the properties in occupied South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

While properties will still be listed, Airbnb announced they would no longer accept profits from occupied areas, and they will instead donate such revenue to charities. “Any profits generated for Airbnb by any Airbnb host activity in the entire West Bank will be donated to non-profit organizations dedicated to humanitarian aid that serve people in different parts of the world,” reads their statement. “The same approach will be applied for listings in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two other disputed areas where the company has previously announced that we would take action.”

Although US law permits companies to conduct business in occupied territories, Airbnb admits that it is a controversial issue. Palestinian human rights activists have called the latest decision “shameful” and “a blatant attempt to whitewash reality,” whilst many online users have accused the hospitality site of lacking morals.

Airbnb has also been criticized for listing properties in Abkhazia. The war in 1992 - 93 and Russian occupation displaced more than half a million Georgians from their homes in Abkhazia. Therefore, critics underline that individuals listing the properties cannot verify the authenticity of their ownership of properties.

In addition, tourism in occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia is illegal according to Georgian law. No Georgians are able to enter Abkhazia due to the risk of kidnapping and arrest by occupant forces.

Nonetheless, around one million tourists visit the region each year, the majority of whom are Russian. Abkhazia is a cheaper alternative to other holiday destinations such as Turkey. Russians can also easily travel from Sochi to Suchumi, the de facto capital of Abkhazia, by train. The journey takes around six hours and costs approximately $25.

Abkhazia was once one of the most popular tourist destinations in Georgia. During the Soviet Union, many tourists visited Abkhazia for its Black Sea beaches. With over 202,000 tourists to the region every year, it accounted for a 40% share of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic’s tourism market.

By Amy Jones

Image source: Rest Agent

15 April 2019 17:32