written by:  Joe Wilson, Airbnb Superhost

There are many layers to unpack when it comes to traveling while black. To put thing in perspective, we have to visit the racial history of our country. Folks like my grandparents and parents didn’t really travel growing up. This stemmed from both economic and a racial issues. Most black people didn’t have the means to travel and on top of that there was fear of travel – especially during the Jim Crow era. Black people couldn’t just drive across the country. There was the risk of getting to places where a hotel wouldn’t allow them to stay or being denied gas at service stations when needing to refuel. There was the risk of not being able to buy food at restaurants or getting targeting by racist police officers.

Many Black travelers during those day would resort to packing extra food and even extra gas canisters to avoid needing to stop at places that would potentially be racist. There was also the risk of running into a “sundown town”. A sundown town is where back in Jim crow days black people had to be out by sundown and if not they were prone to be in very dangerous situations with the local white residents. Due to the racial discrimination, a book called “The Negro Motorist Green Book”  was published annually for black people to show them where they could travel, receive services, and be welcomed. May sound drastic but these were the steps the black people had to take if the wanted to travel.

Fast forward to today, things have gotten better. With more Black people having more disposable income, progress in race relations, and technology (i.e. Being able to record incidents when they happen) there are now movements in the black community to travel. You’re seeing more Black people actually go places and travel internationally. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/what-it-means-to-be-black-and-abroad_us_5b4f88dee4b0169b6e70aa3f

Now that travel is increasing amongst Black people, I think Airbnb will see an increase in Black people booking. I’ve seen many friends and family use Airbnbs for their stay arrangements. I think the potential to save money and is a big appeal. It also seems Airbnb/VRBO is the preferred way to stay if there is a group traveling together. People like being able to actually stay together rather than different hotel rooms. In general, I think any one who is relatively new to travel will be less likely to use Airbnb and trust a hotel more. But again, as Black travelers become more experienced with travel, Airbnb use amongst Black people will increase.

I think some issues on Airbnb that have happened with minorities have been a society issue and not an Airbnb issue and that Airbnb has done an excellent job in trying to curtail discrimination:

  • o They’re encouraging hosts to allow instant booking (somewhat bypassing the host vetting process)
  • o There are potential ramifications if you cancel reservations on too many guests
  • o There’s also a “welcoming” criteria that Airbnb has to make sure hosts are accepting a certain percentage of guests
  • I think all these are good ways to help curtail discrimination that may happen on Airbnb. I still must say (not speaking for all black people) that the first time I requested to stay at an Airbnb, I was a little nervous that I would get rejected. We’ve heard the stories of people of color being rejected for bogus reasons, etc. I got a accepted and the host was wonderful. I’m willing to bet there’s a little uncertainty amongst other Black people when booking Airbnb homes.

As a Black host, I was nervous about how well I’d do. I was concerned that people would skip over my listing when they see a black man hosting. I wouldn’t be shocked (if I ever found out) that some folks did in fact skip over my listing when they saw that I’m Black. Hasn’t stopped me from having a successful Airbnb stay.

Since I have had the feeling of being at a disadvantage in getting chosen as a black host, I often find myself going above and beyond my duties as a host. As a minority, there are often times where you feel like you have to be a good representative for your race. I just want my guests to be wowed and make sure that a undesirable experience doesn’t happen so they don’t skip over other Black businesses.

Not sure if you’ve heard about them but there are other sites that advertise being more welcoming:

o Innclusive – This platform only allows instant booking and really promotes everyone being welcome

o Mrbnb – home sharing site for the gay community.

Places like Indianapolis where bookings may be only about 10% (much like Denver) is not on the map for Black travelers. Ha! Domestically, Black people are going to Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Dallas, New Orleans, NYC, Hawaii, CHI, Vegas, DC, California (LA, SF, SD, Napa). Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are Black people traveling there but Indianapolis has never come up as a must go to city in my circle of Black friends.

Joe Wilson, Airbnb Superhost

Joe has been an Airbnb host since June and became a superhost in October! He hosts in Denver, CO and really loves being an Airbnb host. What he loves most about it is being able enhance the traveler’s experience in Denver by providing a clean/comfortable place and also make recommendations on things to do to make for a memorable trip. “The semi passive income isn’t so bad either” he says!


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