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Travel and Inclusion: The Substitution Theory

The story of Noirbnb began on October 9, 2015, at 9:44 a.m. in Decatur, Ga., to be exact. Stefan Grant, Ronnia Cherry, and a cohort of their friends were in town for an A3C Music Festival event and decided to rent an Airbnb for the weekend.

While preparing for their show in the rental, two police officers arrived with guns drawn — responding to calls from neighbors who assumed a robbery was in progress. After a brief conversation, and confirmation of rental, the police realized there was no robbery taking place, and were amiable enough to take a selfie with Stefan.

NoirbnbselfieThis selfie caught the attention of their accommodations provider, Airbnb. After meeting with Airbnb at their San Francisco headquarters in November, pitching the Noirbnb concept, and speaking for months about how they could better serve the black community, they surmised the company had no intention of focusing their energy on properly servicing black travelers.

After Harvard University’s study on discrimination with Airbnb which found that Airbnb hosts are 16 percent less likely to book users with “distinctively African-American names,” and the eventual rise of the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack, Grant, 27 and Cherry, 30, realized they had to do something. On June 3rd, 2016, they launched Noirbnb — a safe and welcoming lodging platform for the African diaspora and people of color to connect with each other on a global level that shares spaces, experiences and cultures.

Launched almost simultaneously and with a similar impetus was Innclusive — the brainchild of veteran start-up founder Rohan Gilkes and Zakiyyah Myers. An Airbnb host denied Gilkes’ request for a stay in Idaho, but then agreed to rent the space to his white associate for the same time frame soon after. Gilkes’ story immediately went viral and launched the beginning of what eventually became Innclusive. And discouraging discrimination is the cornerstone of the enterprise. Specifically, Innclusive does not permit hosts to relist their property during dates they have previously told users are unavailable. If a host denies a request for a date range, then it will not be available for that date range for anyone.

The temporary rental lodging start-ups for marginalized communities come at a time when the black travel market/industry — buoyed by international travel clans such as Travel Noire and Nomadness Tribe — is reaching multi-billion-dollar levels. AT

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