Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday state agencies are now prohibited from conducting business with controversial home-sharing platform Airbnb.
The decision to place AirBnb on Florida’s Scrutinized Companies List follows criticism from the state’s new governor regarding the company’s decision to not list rentals in the West Bank area of Israel. DeSantis said “Israel has had to face scrutiny like no other country in history.”
“Airbnb made a conscious decision to discriminate against the Jewish people, and as governor I have an obligation to oppose policies that unfairly target the world’s only Jewish state and our greatest ally in the Middle East,” DeSantis said. “Our action today solidifies the State of Florida’s resolve to stand with Israel, and if Airbnb does not denounce their previous policy of discrimination we may be compelled to explore additional action.”
Days earlier, the company issued a letter to the Florida State Board of Administration outlining its disavowal of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement — a Palestinian-led pressure tactic to oppose Israeli policy and products in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
The Jan. 17 letter signed by Robert Chesnut, the company’s general counsel, said Airbnb “strongly believes in the Israeli state,” and argued its West Bank policy does not qualify as a boycott.
According to the document, Airbnb has a policy in place to prevent reservations in multiple conflict-ridden areas where its listings “could be implicated in ongoing tensions.” For instance, the company suspended reservations in Crimea in light of violence in the region.
“Airbnb is applying the company’s global framework for disputed territories in an ongoing manner around the world,” the letter said.
Read the full letter here:
DeSantis previously criticized Airbnb as governor-elect and announced Florida employees would no longer be reimbursed for using properties listed by the short-term rental service on Jan. 16.
Airbnb has encountered a host of problems while conducting business in the Sunshine State. The Third District Court of Appeal issued an adverse ruling to the San Francisco-based company in December, allowing the City of Miami to proceed with its ban on short-term rentals in select areas of the city. Then on Jan. 4 Airbnb filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Miami Beach for its rules concerning rentals shorter than six months and one day.
In a statement provided to the DBR, Airbnb reaffirmed its opposition to the Israeli boycott. The company also said it was “disappointed” with its placement on Florida’s Scrutinized Companies list.
“There are over 20,000 Airbnb hosts in Israel who open their doors and showcase the best of Israeli hospitality to guests from around the world, which boosts local families, businesses and communities,” the statement read. “Our community of hosts in Israel has already welcomed more than 1 million guests and we will continue to invest in Israel.”
On Monday, Airbnb released its 2018 Florida tax report touting the $89.5 million generated in tax revenue for the state, including $5.2 million in Broward and $10.3 million in Miami-Dade for South Florida bed tax revenue exceeding $15 million.
The report said, “In Florida, county bed taxes are largely used to fund local tourism marketing ventures, which means this revenue is helping counties to better brand themselves globally as family-friendly tourist destinations.”