After widespread complaints about racism and discrimination on Airbnb, two startups have set out to offer alternative services to African-American travelers.
Noirebnb and Noirbnb – two separate businesses, despite their similar names – aim to provide a more inclusive home-sharing platform by bringing together black hosts with black people who are travelling.
Both companies were founded by black users who say they experienced discrimination while trying to book accommodation on Airbnb.
“Noirbnb” was founded by Ronnia Cherry and Stefan Grant; former Airbnb users who garnered a lot of attention last fall after a neighbour suspected they were robbing the upscale Airbnb home they were renting in Atlanta.
Rohan Gilkes, founder of “Noirebnb,” came up with the idea in May after his Medium post detailing an alleged racist interaction with an Airbnb host went viral.
“Airbnb’s response to my Medium post was lacklustre at best,” Gilkes told Global News. “I just want to build an inclusive place where people can feel respected.”
While both companies exclusively feature images of African-American travellers on their sites – and Noirbnb’s tag line reads, “The future of black travel is here” – Gilkes said he won’t tolerate any type of discrimination on his service.
“It’s not just a space for black people or people of colour,” he said, noting that he already has hosts with many different cultural backgrounds lined up to welcome guests on Noirebnb.
Gilkes said Noirebnb will allow anyone who feels like they are being discriminated against – whether because of their skin colour, religion, or sexual preference – to find a safe place to stay, with open-minded hosts.
This isn’t the first time discriminatory encounters have led users to create Airbnb alternatives.
Misterbandb – a home-sharing platform specifically for gay travellers – was created in 2013, after founder Matthieu Jost and his partner had a bad experience with an Airbnb host in Barcelona.
The website has since grown to over 55,000 rental listings in 130 countries.
On Wednesday, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky addressed what has come to be known as “Airbnb’s racism problem” during the company’s OpenAir conference.
“Let me make it clear that we have zero tolerance for any amount of racism or discrimination on our platform,” Chesky said. “Over the next couple months, we’re revisiting the design of our platform end to end and look at how we can revisit decisions we’ve made.”
Despite the company making public promises to crack down on discrimination, interest in both Noirebnb and Noirbnb appears to be growing among frustrated users.
“I feel like there is a real frustration – people are telling their stories. The time is now, and hopefully this movement would be something that makes Airbnb better,” Gilkes said.
Because there has been so much overlap between Noirebnb and Noirbnb’s names, the two companies have been in talks to combine the platforms or work together in some way. However, Gilkes said the companies will remain independent, for now.