Airbnb can be a traveller’s heaven. With a diverse range of accommodations and friendly locations, it’s no wonder people have jumped on to the site with so much gusto.
There is potential for adventure in an Airbnb – you might find a friend, learn how to cook a native dish… or the hosts might find out that you’re gay.
That’s when things could start going south.
Globally, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is becoming increasingly accepted in many countries. However, there are those who are still uncomfortable with hosting a same-sex couple in their homes.
This was the experience that inspired Matthieu Jost to co-found startup Misterbnb.
Airbnb, But For Gays
Misterbnb clearly puts in the effort to make people feel welcome, adopting Airbnb’s design in its site to create a sense of familiarity.
A French startup based in the US, it is branded as the #1 gay hotelier in the world with 100,000 hosts in over 135 countries. And yes, there are listings in Singapore and Malaysia as well.
Misterbnb is a partnership between myGayTrip (imagine a gay TripAdvisor) and apartment rental service Sejourning. Their aim is to make travel and accommodation solutions friendlier to gays.
Homosexuality can cause for much tension, even more so if the country does not legally recognise it. But on Misterbnb, everyone is on the same page. Airbnb does not give you the same security of mind, Jost shared.
Understandably, Airbnb has vastly more listings than misterbnb. But as business development manager Benoit Breton iterates, there are many reasons why gay travellers prefer gay hosts.
Instances where hosts can be uncomfortable, or even discriminatory towards homosexuality, can make for a nasty experience.
But Misterbnb isn’t just for gays – 10% of their travellers are female, namely because of the safety factor.
During a Forbes interview, women who have used misterbnb quoted that they felt “better knowing that the hosts were not interested in women.”
And ignoring the obvious pandering to stereotypes, Misterbnb travellers have found that gay hosts tend to be more friendly, fun, and living in nicer homes.
A Lucrative Market
A 2016 study by LGBT consulting firm Out Now highlighted that the global market value of LGBT tourism stands at US$211 billion per year.
LGBT-catered products and services are a lucrative one, and investors know it. Since its inception in 2013, Misterbnb has already raised a total of S$14.5 million.
Their seed round was in May 2015, where they raised S$2.7 million. And 2 days ago, they raised S$11.7 more in a Series A.
According to the announcement, although Misterbnb started up to cater to gays, they now plan to create a more inclusive culture for the LGBT community in general.
Misterbnb In Singapore
As I mentioned earlier, Misterbnb has a presence in Singapore as well.
A propertyguru study in June 2016 found that were 35 listings here (although I only found about 20 listings). As shared by interviewee Ryan Tan, “it’s not illegal to be gay or to be friendly to gay travellers.”
“Knowing that the homeowner is gay or gay-friendly means I can refer to him or her for questions related to my needs. Where the most happening gay bars and clubs are… eateries that are gay-friendly, and even medical services that cater to homosexuals.”
Pink Dot spokesperson Paerin Choa also shared that “LGBT travellers have as much right to feel safe as other travellers […] Such services to help LGBT people find discrimination-free spaces to stay in are invaluable.”
We live in a conflicted country here in Singapore.
Meanwhile we also celebrate the Pink Dot Movement, although this year’s is contentious for other reasons.
Clearly, an inclusive culture is still a long way down the road, but startups like Misterbnb may help to speed things along.
Featured Image Credit: misterbnb