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Black History Month - Traveling While Black: Tips for Safe Travel, Avoiding Racism, and the #AirbnbWhileBlack Controversy

Black History Month - Traveling While Black: Tips for Safe Travel, Avoiding Racism, and the #AirbnbWhileBlack Controversy

With domestic and global travel impacted by COVID-19, most Americans have been stuck indoors since early 2020. Once the world re-opens, the travel industry is expected to recover after its 48% decrease from the $1.1 trillion spent in 2019.

While the travel industry has suffered as a result of COVID-19, the resilient Black Lives Matter movement has not allowed the pandemic to put its mission to end racial injustice and white supremacy on hold. And over the past year, many companies have chosen to join BLM in its fight, including the travel platform Airbnb.

Despite Airbnb’s decision to support Black Lives Matter, a busy year of travel may have black travelers feeling uneasy about using Airbnb to book stays and host guests. And given its history of racial discrimination, this hesitance is not surprising.

If 2021 becomes the year of travel, as predicted, how can black travelers with concerns of racial discrimination ensure they have safe travel experiences?

This guide is designed to provide insight on Airbnb’s response to accusations of racial discrimination, alternative lodging options for black travelers and recommendations for the best credits cards to use to travel globally and domestically in a financially smart way.

#AirbnbWhileBlack Controversy

If you’ve seen #AirbnbWhileBlack, then you are familiar with the social media movement born out of frustration, disappointment, and disgust with Airbnb’s inability to create a travel community that offers all travelers a safe, welcoming experience.

In 2015, Airbnb came under scrutiny when Black hosts and renters reported incidents of racial discrimination. Complaints alleged that the images of Black users were the reason they did not receive bookings or were denied lodging by hosts. Airbnb itself was accused of only removing inactive accounts of Black users instead of all users with inactive accounts.

Airbnb claims it removed 1.3 million people from its platform starting in 2016, but acknowledged that there is still work to be done to fight discrimination. Additionally, Airbnb teamed up with Color of Change to launch Project Lighthouse, a US initiative that will “uncover, measure, and overcome discrimination when booking or hosting on Airbnb.”

With the help of its anti-discrimination team, Airbnb now performs research on its platform to gather data to guide them in the development of tools and policies that allow it to offer Black travelers and hosts a safer experience when using the platform.

Profile protection is said to encourage hosts to make objective decisions by keeping guest photos hidden until after their booking is confirmed. Additionally, the Instant Book feature allows guests to book a listing immediately, which keeps hosts from denying bookings.

Airbnb’s nondiscrimination policy, which all hosts must agree to, has also been updated, stating:

“Airbnb hosts may not:

  • Decline a booking based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.
  • Impose any different terms or conditions based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.
  • Post any listing or make any statement that discourages or indicates a preference for or against any guest on account of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.”

Airbnb hosts are allowed to deny bookings but only in certain situations. For example, a booking can be denied if the guest has pets and books a rental where pets are not allowed. Hosts who violate or do not comply with these nondiscrimination policies face suspension from the platform.

As of November 2020, close to 13.4% of issues Airbnb guests experienced were a result of unsafe or unpleasant conditions, including hosts who were hostile and/or intimidating.

Alternatives to Airbnb:

For some, Airbnb’s effort to end discrimination on its platform may have come a little too late. However, this hasn’t limited Black travelers who continue to pour into the travel industry. Other travel platforms and communities have been carefully designed to provide Black travelers the safe, comfortable lodging experience they deserve.

Noirbnb

Global travel community Noirbnb, which was created in 2015 by Stefan Grant, provides Black travelers with a safe travel experience. By offering travel accommodations without discrimination, Noirbnb has made it possible for Black travelers to feel safe, welcomed, and comfortable when traveling domestically and internationally.  Although Noirbnb caters to the Black traveler community, travelers of any race, culture, gender or religion can utilize this platform.

NABHOOD

The National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators & Developers (NABHOOD), which was formed in 1998, works to create wealth within the Black community. Over the years, the number of African-Americans involved in developing, owning, managing and operating hotels has increased. If you’re interested in lodging at a Black-owned hotel within the US, you can review a list of NABHOOD hotels on the organization’s website to confirm hotel locations.

Key Tips on Preparing for Your Travel:

If you have traveled before, then you know a lot goes into planning a trip. Between picking a destination, selecting your travel dates, and packing, a lot of time is spent making sure things go as planned. For Black travelers, preparing for travel requires a certain level of attention that isn’t required of everyone, specifically when it comes to safety and how to avoid incidents of racism and discrimination.

Becoming part of a Black travel group within the community

You may want to see the world, but aren’t sure how to do so safely, Black travel groups are full of travelers who can share their knowledge and experiences and even travel together as a group to safe destinations where Black travelers are welcome.

Research your destination

One of the exciting aspects of traveling is getting to experience something new. Whether you are traveling within the US or abroad, you will enter a space where you will interact with many different people, cultures and religions. Before you head out the door, research your destination. The information you gather will allow you to have a safe, comfortable and enjoyable experience.

Know your travel goals

What are your travel goals? Do you want to travel once a month? Once a year? What do you want to see? As you determine your travel goals for the year, and those moving forward, it is important to acknowledge that your safety is a priority wherever you go.

How to Get the Best Deals on your Stay, Regardless of Which Platform You Go With:

A more personalized stay makes guests feel welcome, but another thing Airbnb and other rental platforms offer is flexible pricing. According to iProperty Management, Airbnb rentals in certain US markets are between 6% and 17% cheaper than hotels.

However, if you don’t find affordable lodging, that doesn’t mean you have to cancel your trip because there are still ways to travel and stay within budget.

Referral codes

If you have friends who enjoy traveling, ask them about a referral code. When you are booking your trip, you can enter this code and get a discount after creating a new account. Lyft, for example, is one company that allows users to refer friends and family who want to save on their trips, specifically when they are in a new city and need to make their way from one destination to another.

Airbnb offers referral codes too. Just ask a friend for their code and you can get up to $40 off on your first booking.

Negotiate with host

Airbnb and other rental platforms allow hosts to set the price for their homes. This means that you can negotiate the cost of lodging with potential hosts. To ensure their home is booked and they make money, hosts may drop the price. There is no guarantee they will agree to your request, but you could miss out on a good deal if you don’t ask.

Use flexible dates and filters

Not only does the timing of your booking affect the cost, so does your date of travel. If airfare is cheaper on a Tuesday, but you were planning to leave on Wednesday, consider how much can be saved if you leave a day earlier. When booking, you can view the difference in prices based on the day and decide if your travel dates are flexible or firm.

Use a travel credit card

The great thing about credit cards is that you can earn rewards for every purchase you make. If you have a travel credit card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, your rewards can be used to cover the cost of your trip, including airfare, car rental, and lodging. As an incentive, new cardholders can receive a large number of bonus miles when opening up a card and spending a specific amount during the promotional period. These welcome bonuses can sometimes be enough to cover the cost of an entire trip!

Bottom line

There is an appreciation for Airbnb and other companies that have chosen to stand in solidarity and address the issues of racial injustice and white supremacy. However, with #AirbnbWhileBlack still actively being used on social media by Black travelers who have put their trust in the company to provide them with a safe travel experience, there may still be questions regarding the effectiveness of Airbnb’s policies.

As the fight against racial inequality continues, people are taking notice of how companies are responding, even if that response is silence. Are the companies you support doing their part to aid in the fight?