Noirebnb Tackles #AirbnbWhileBlack Issues By Creating A Travel Site Specifically For People Of Color
Airbnb has been the go-to source for unique lodging needs since 2008, but a new startup is looking to offer a solution for users who have dealt with racial discrimination when trying to use the site. Noirebnb, a website in response to #AirbnbWhileBlack, recently announced their impending launch and created an instant buzz on Twitter. Noirebnb will be designed to work the same way Airbnb does, but specifically for black people and other people of color to be both users and hosts in order to avoid being denied because of their race.
Co-founder Rohan Gilkes started the service in response to his own experience with racial discrimination on Airbnb while trying to book a cabin in Idaho. Gilkes, a Barbadian entrepreneur, recounted the experience with Fusion.net and said he was told the dates weren’t available. However, a white friend went in and booked the exact dates he wanted. Understandably frustrated, Gilkes reached out to an Airbnb rep who, according to Gilkes, said that something completely transparent like a racial slur would have to happen for the company to take action. He told Fusion he was also told to expect a follow-up within a few days, which didn’t happen until he blasted them on social media a couple of weeks later.
Gilkes’ decision to partner with a veteran traveler known as Zakiyyah, a member of NomadnessTribe, to launch Noirebnb has come at an ideal time. The recent news about a racist Charlotte, NC host being kicked off the site for his bigoted rant toward a black woman, as well as endless #AirbnbWhileBlack stories are proof that his services will be useful to a ton of former Airbnb users.
According to Gilkes, Noirebnb’s complete design will be with the user in mind — all the promotional materials and website photos will include images of black people. They are in the process of making a mini-commercial with 30-second clips from future users stating why they would use Noirebnb. The platform will also be designed so users cannot re-list a time period after they have declared it unavailable.
There already seems to be a potential partnership with a similar startup underway. Another booking website, Noirbnb (confusing, right?), is the brainchild of Miami marketing professional Ronnia Cherry and D.C.-based musician Stefan Grant. Similar to Gilkes, the pair rented a house in Atlanta and had a horrifying experience. Grant opened up to USA Today about their brush with the police:
“The neighbors called the police because they thought we were robbing the house. The cops showed up with guns drawn. Luckily we were able to de-escalate the situation.”
Airbnb responded by offering a free booking on the website and flew them out to the headquarters in San Francisco to hear their story in person. They proposed Noirbnb to Airbnb, but after no action was made, they decided to start Noirbnb on their own. The similarity in names and services has sparked questions for both companies, and the founders are all trying to reach an agreement to bring a viable solution to #AirbnbWhileBlack victims.
Hopefully, these two companies can come together and launch a powerhouse sit. While no website can be 100 percent free of racism and trolling, Noirebnb and Noirbnb are certainly doing everything they can to provide a tangible solution to a persistent problem with a major travel site. Black people seeking lodging options now know they will have a place to go where the chance of being rejected simply for their skin color is much lower. And, as users begin to flock toward this option, perhaps Airbnb will work toward hiring more black employees and finding a way to improve their platform for everyone.