Amnesty Intl. alleges Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia & TripAdvisor are profiting from illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories; inc. co. responses

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Article
28 July 2019

TripAdvisor's corporate irresponsibility

Author: Laith Abu Zeyad, Al Jazeera

TripAdvisor is the second-most visited website (after Google) by foreign tourists arriving in Israel... In our campaigning, we have asked [TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer] to stop listing or promoting properties, activities and attractions located in illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. TripAdvisor responded by claiming that "[t]he listing of a property or business on TripAdvisor does not represent our endorsement of that establishment". 

Yet the company does make a profit from listings including those in illegal Israeli settlements... we found that TripAdvisor has prominently featured, and acted as a booking agent for the City of David, a popular tourist attraction located in Silwan, a Palestinian neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem. The site is managed by an organisation called the Elad Foundation, which is backed by the Israeli government and works to help Israeli settlers move into the area... By actively encouraging users to visit the City of David and take guided tours of the site, TripAdvisor has boosted Elad's business and profited from every booking made through its site.

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Article
19 February 2019

Destination: Occupation, digital tourism & Israel's illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Author: Amnesty International

Airbnb, Inc..., Booking.com... Expedia..., and TripAdvisor... list numerous hotels, B&Bs, attractions or tours in Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). They are doing so despite knowing that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is governed by international humanitarian law under which Israeli settlements are deemed illegal. In addition, key acts required for the establishment of settlements, such as the transfer of Israel’s population into occupied territory and the appropriation of property without military justification, amount to war crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court... All four companies claim to operate under high ethical values and respect for the rule of law... . In doing business with settlements, all four companies are contributing to, and profiting from, the maintenance, development and expansion of illegal settlements, which amount to war crimes under international criminal law. They are also contributing to violations of human rights law and acting in direct contradiction with their own corporate standards.

... To comply with their responsibilities to uphold international humanitarian law and respect human rights, Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor must stop listing tourist accommodation, activities and attractions in settlements or run by settlers in the OPT, including East Jerusalem... Airbnb’s announcement that it will stop listing in settlements in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) is welcome, but only a first step. The company must implement this announcement, it must reflect its commitment in a revised public policy, and it must redress the harm it has contributed to.

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Company non-response
18 February 2019

Airbnb did not respond

Company response
15 February 2019

Booking.com's response

Author: Booking.com

... Our mission at Booking.com is to empower people to experience the world... Booking.com permits all accommodations worldwide to register themselves on Booking.com’s website and to offer their accommodations to travelers, where this is in compliance with legislation applicable to Booking.com and its operations. Where clearly defined and applicable laws or sanctions prohibit us from offering our services, we fully comply with such restrictions. Booking.com is of the view that it does not provide “services and utilities supporting the maintenance and existence of settlements, including transport”, as referenced in paragraph 96 of the Report of the International Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Everything we do in terms of how we display information on Booking.com is focused on the customer and always in accordance with applicable law.  Our geographic labeling of properties gives full transparency to customers about where an accommodation is located and we continuously update and optimise this information. By marking properties concerned as being in 'Israeli settlements' we provide transparency to anybody looking (or not looking) for accommodations in these territories.

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Company response
12 February 2019

TripAdvisor's response

Author: TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor believes that travelers coming to our site or app should have access to all relevant information available about a destination, including businesses currently open in those locations. To this end, we aim to provide travelers with an apolitical, accurate and useful picture of all accommodations, restaurants and attractions that are currently open for business around the world. We understand that this issue is a sensitive matter with cultural and political implications. The listing of a property or business on TripAdvisor does not represent our endorsement of that establishment. We provide the listing as a platform for guests to share their genuine experiences with other travelers. As such, we do not remove listings of properties or businesses that remain active and open for business. With respect to where a location is listed on a map, TripAdvisor’s practices aim to be consistent with the travel industry and Internet search standards. TripAdvisor will continue to monitor how other travel and Internet search companies list information about properties in the region as we aim to deliver a consistent experience to all of our users across the globe.

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Article
17 December 2018

Airbnb denies U-turn on West Bank settlement bookings

Author: Agence France-Presse, The Guardian

The online bookings platform Airbnb has denied a claim by Israel’s tourism minister that it had reversed a decision to stop listing accommodation in settlements in the occupied West Bank. The tourism minister, Yariv Levin, had said on his Facebook page that the firm “will not enforce its decision to withdraw proposed bookings from its website”. But Airbnb later said: “The information published earlier today was inaccurate.” Airbnb announced in November that it would “remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians”. It said its decision would affect about 200 settlement homes. The firm said on Monday that it “unequivocally” rejects the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which urges wide-ranging economic measures to protest against the decades-long Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Airbnb said it was committed to developing business in Israel, to allow “more tourists from around the world to enjoy the wonders of the country and its people”.

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Article
16 December 2018

Expedia's response to Amnesty International

Author: Expedia Group

Expedia Group is an online travel company, empowering leisure and business travelers around the world with the tools and information they need to research, plan, book and experience travel. Expedia Group operates more than 200 travel websites across 75 countries. Travel suppliers distribute and market their products and services via our desktop and mobile offerings, Expedia Group does not operate hotels, vacation rentals or travel products itself. We allow any accommodation provider to sign up to our platform in accordance with laws applicable to Expedia Group. Expedia Group is committed to providing transparency to our customers when travelling to disputed territories globally and we appreciate Amnesty International bringing its concerns on this complex issue to our attention. In the Occupied Palestinian Territories, we identify these accommodations as "Israeli Settlement" located in Palestinian Territory. We are currently reviewing the transparency of our display not only in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, but as well as other disputed territories globally to ensure that travelers have the information necessary to make the travel decisions that best suit their needs. The issues raised in your letter are an important input as we continue to assess the type of information we provide to our travelers.

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Article
19 November 2018

Airbnb to take rentals in Israeli West Bank settlements off website

Author: Oliver Holmes, The Guardian

Airbnb has said it will remove from its website all properties in Israeli settlements built on the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank, after years of accusations that the company was benefitting from rentals in the illegal outposts. The accommodation bookings website announced on Monday that around 200 listings would be taken down in what will be seen as a victory for the Palestinian-led anti-occupation movement. “Many in the global community have stated that companies should not do business here because they believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced,” it said in a statement posted on its website. “We concluded that we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.” The announcement came before the publication on Tuesday of a damning report by the New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch on the negative implications of its settlement business... Human Rights Watch welcomed the move. Arvind Ganesan, the business and human rights director at the organisation, said Airbnb’s decision was “an important recognition that such listings can’t square with its human rights responsibilities”...

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