Amidst a global pandemic that has all but flatlined the hotel industry, Washington D.C. hotels are faced with a quintessential dilemma: Are they obligated to turn away business that might bring further violence to the nation’s capital during Joe Biden and Kamal Harris’s Inauguration?
As President-elect Joe Biden’s Inauguration draws near, Washington, D.C. hotels, in addition to trying to do business during a global pandemic, have an additional challenge no one could have fathomed even a few months ago: Are they obligated to close their doors and turn away business to avoid accommodating possible domestic terrorists who wish to do harm to President-elect and Vice-president-elect Kamal Harris and their supporters?
Last week, after the Capitol Insurrection, area hotels faced a social media backlash for accommodating maskless Trump supporters. Now, these same hotels are faced with quite a dilemma: Should they accept business during a time of such uncertainty and a well-founded fear of potential further violence?
Last Wednesday, in response to various local, state and federal officials asking people not to travel to Washington, D.C., Airbnb announced it would cancel reservations in the Washington, D.C. metro area during Inauguration week. In addition, the company committed to block any new reservations in the area during that time.
However, hotels such as Hotel Harrington, Hilton, Marriott, Mandarin Oriental, and Hyatt have announced that they will remain open.
Washington-area hospitality union Unite Here Local 25 and several local activist groups applied a pressure campaign on D.C. hotels to temporarily close ahead of Inauguration Day, warning of “an imminent threat to the safety” of the city.
In a statement posted on Twitter last Wednesday, John Boardman, executive secretary-treasurer of Local 25, called for all metro area D.C. hotels, (except for those housing members of the National Guard and other security personnel), to close their doors immediately.
“Last week, we watched in horror as insurrectionists terrorized the District, putting our members, as well as the broader public, at risk of violence and exposure to COVID-19,” Boardman said. “Given the danger and fluidity of this situation, the best way to guarantee the safety of hotel workers and District residents is to keep these groups out of the city and out of its hotels.”
Ultimately, hotels will have to decide for themselves whether or not to accept reservations from people who might wish to harm the incoming President and Vice-President, but one thing is for sure: The world is watching.