While renting an Airbnb property in 2015, Stefan Grant and a group of friends received a visit from a pair of police officers. The officers told him that neighbors had reported the house was being robbed, Grant said.
An innocent mistake or a case of discrimination? Grant and his friends, who are black, said they were certain it was the latter. Following the attention he received after a Twitter post about the incident went viral, Grant had an in-person meeting with Airbnb executives to talk about discrimination and how the company could better serve his community.
In response to a multitude of reports of discrimination based on race, age, gender and other factors, Airbnb implemented new policies and procedures in September 2016.
But Grant was not satisfied. He and a partner thus have decided to start their own short-term rental company, Noirbnb, which aims to provide welcoming and safe spaces for black travelers and for anyone who may have faced discrimination in the past.
Grant chatted with us about the company he’s soon to launch.
Independent Traveler: Where are you in terms of the company development?
Stefan Grant: We’re very close to our full launch. We have a few thousand properties so far, and more are signing up every day.
IT: Why is a service like this important for travelers?
SG: I think a service like Noirbnb is important because it understands and caters to the unique experiences of black travelers and other travelers of color. It also provides a space for accepting people of all walks of life to connect with each other and build awesome new relationships.
IT: Do you think the changes Airbnb implemented last year to make its service more “colorblind” have been effective?
SG: I don’t think they have been effective because we still see instances of rampant discrimination taking place on Airbnb all the time. I also don’t think that people should be “colorblind.” People should see people for who they are because our uniqueness is what makes the world a more beautiful place, and to blind ourselves to that is dismissive and counterproductive.
IT: Tell us a little about some of the property owners who have signed up so far.
SG: We have a variety of different properties, from large homes and villas to apartments, condos and even a boat. Many people who’ve signed up with us tell us they love our mission and what we’re setting out to do. Our hosts come in all facets, and it means the world to us that they want to be part of what we’re building at Noirbnb.
IT: What else will be different from your competitors?
SG: We have a few differentiators that we plan on rolling out that will separate us from our competitors. But we don’t want to give away too much of our “secret sauce” before we launch.
IT: Is your aim to attract black-owned properties or black-friendly properties? Or both?
SG: Our goal is to attract black-owned properties as well as black-friendly properties.
IT: Do you anticipate that other groups of people who face discrimination, such as gay travelers or travelers of other ethnic backgrounds, will be drawn to use your service too?
SG: We do anticipate that people of other ethnic backgrounds or members of the LGBT community will gravitate toward us because in many ways our experiences overlap and intersect. We also created Noirbnb for them because we want our platform to really be a diverse and welcoming community where people can feel free to be themselves.
IT: Once the site is up and running, where’s the first place that you want to book?
SG: Once the site is up and running, I think I’d like to visit Cuba, South Africa or London. Those places are so beautiful and culturally diverse. They’ve been calling me for a while.
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— interview conducted by Elissa Leibowitz Poma