The hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack was an eye-opener regarding the lodging site and its black customers. Black users of the popular site aired their grievances about being denied stays by hosts because of their race. Although the company assured the public that racism would not be tolerated, people weren’t buying it. But two companies that started out with similar names have surfaced to give black travelers and hosts more options.
Let’s start with Innclusive, the new catchy name of what was previously Noirebnb; more on that later. Veteran startup founder Rohan Gilkes, one of the site’s creators, had an experience with Airbnb that didn’t go so well.
“I was planning a trip to Idaho and I selected the dates that I needed a place to stay on Airbnb,” Gilkes told The Root. But the booking for his trip didn’t actually happen.
After finding a place, he requested his stay. But the white host soon responded by saying that it was already booked. A bit dismayed and confused, he wanted to see what was actually going on. Sure enough, when a white friend tried to book the room, it was available. Gilkes’ story immediately went viral and launched the beginning of what was originally Noirebnb.
Of course, with every startup, there are obstacles, and Gilkes and his co-founder, Zakiyyah Myers, met one early on.
And this is where Noirbnb (without the "e") comes into play.
Faced with two entities with similar names, Gilkes said early on that he was in talks with Noirbnb’s founders, Stefan Grant and Ronnia Cherry, to come to an agreement or even possibly work together. But that didn’t go over so well.
“About six days into our conversations, I found out they went and put in a trademark application for both Noirebnb and Noirbnb,” Gilkes said.
The result? As with Uber and Lyft, people will have more than one black-owned option.
Speaking through their media representative, Cherry and Grant shared a similar Airbnb disaster story involving being black while traveling. The two were staying at an Airbnb location in Atlanta and had the cops called on them twice by neighbors who claimed that they were robbing the place.
So, what will set Noirbnb apart from Airbnb? Pretty simple, the founders said:
The difference is that Noirbnb is being built by the people for the people, first and foremost. We are tailoring it to people’s needs and have a few unique features we cannot discuss yet. We feel as experienced Airbnb hosts and travelers, Noirbnb would enhance the experience both online, on the platform, and the actual in-person experience that takes place when staying with members. It’s meant to serve like the Green Book, which served as a directory of “safe” lodging, gas and food for black … travelers back in the ’60s. Noirbnb is here to educate, empower and provide economic opportunities to an inclusive community for black travelers, whether local or global.
There’s also one interesting difference that Gilkes mentioned about Innclusive, which would help with hosts lying about their booking schedule.
“If a host denies a request for a date range, then it will not be available for that date range for anyone,” Gilkes said.
Neither site has officially launched yet, but be on the lookout for an official launch date from both Innclusive.com and Noirbnb.com very soon!