Stay Like a Gay Local

by Andy Smith

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday August 30, 2016

Even as the world becomes an LGBT-friendlier place, for many gay men traveling alone or with partners, negotiating with an Airbnb host can still be a needlessly awkward process.

Enter misterb&b, which features gay hosts providing short-term rentals to gay travelers around the world with the promise: "Stay like a gay local: rent welcoming and affordable places from people like you in 130+ countries."

"We have 70,000 hosts in over 135 countries, making misterb&b the largest gay hotelier in the world," says president and co-founder Matthieu Jost. In comparison, Airbnb features over two million listings.

Jost says his site and apps receive 500,000 unique visitors each month. In addition to French and English, Misterb&b is accessible in German, Italian, Portuguese and Chinese.

"The concept is to provide a safe and welcoming environment for our travelers," Jost says. "With misterb&b you don't need to disclose anymore that you are traveling with your boyfriend or partner. You know that you will be welcomed everywhere."

Though most new listings approach them, "Sometimes, when we really fall in love with a place, we contact them and ask them to list with us," he says.

Bad Experience Inspires Big Idea
A surprisingly unpleasant travel experience - in liberal, fun-loving Barcelona of all places - planted the seed for this concept. Six years ago Jost and his partner booked a short-term rental through a mainstream website and received a surprisingly frosty reception from their hosts, prompting the couple to return to Paris the next day.

While exploring other travel business options, he kept the concept in the back of his mind.

"In 2013, I met with Francois (de Landes de Saint Palais), the founder of (a French short term rental website). He had the technology and the short-term rental experience and I had the community with gay marketing experience," Jost says. "Together we launched misterb&b in a few weeks and the traction has been far beyond expectations."

Exclusive Listings
While some of misterb&b's hosts are on multiple rental sites, a surprising number rent only through them. In Paris, for example, 68 percent of hosts are misterb&b "exclusives."

Jost says, "It's always nicer to host someone with whom you have something in common. Community is key to trust. Also, you don't have to hide the picture of you and your partner in your living room because you don't know how your guests will react when they see it."

Instant Comfort Zone
A few happy hosts shared their experiences.

Stockholm-based Ballads Szanto began offering a room thru misterb&b just over a year ago. The experience has been positive for both Szanto and his guests.

"It has definitely increased the ratio of gay guests, which is a lot of fun," he says. "It generally feels easier to make friends with gay guests than with straight ones (even though we had some amazing straight guests as well). Even though Stockholm is a gay-friendly city, I'm sure our gay guests are more relaxed to stay with a gay host. They can feel free to ask what they're really interested in, and can also get gay tips and info about the city."

More than a host, he frequently becomes volunteer tour guide.

"We had a single guy from France staying at our place during the Eurovision Song Contest, and we become really good friends in just a few days," Szanto says.

"As he was on his own, we accompanied him into the city, took him to our favorite tourist spots, went on long walks during the day, had coffee and lunch together, and ended up visiting some gay places one afternoon as well. We're still in touch with him today, and are really looking forward to meeting him again."

Stateside Hospitality
Ft. Lauderdale host Jack Macdonald "has seen a steady increase in bookings since joining misterb&b two years ago." He enjoys cooking for his guests and goes out of his way to make them feel comfortable and welcome in his city.

Case in point: "I had a guest, Greg, who visited last year. He was traveling alone and had never been here before. It so happened that the annual Leather Masked Ball was taking place during his stay. I was going to the Leather Ball with a few friends, one of whom had an extra ticket. He offered it to Greg and between us all, we managed to get enough gear on Greg so that he was dressed properly. He had the time of his life."

Jack adds, "My guests love the fact that they can ask me anything about the area and the nightlife. As another gay man, I can let them know where they should go for whatever they are looking for."

The Hot List
During the Olympics, 56 guests were staying in Rio de Janiero on a given night. "We don't know if they are staying for the Olympics but we saw a 30 percent increase on these specific two weeks," Jost says.

In addition to European hubs like London, Paris and Barcelona, Jost says that over the past few months, Santiago, Chile, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, have been the most popular searches on misterb&b.

Santiago visitors enjoy the highly rated Bunker, alternative disco Blondie, and Fausto, the oldest gay disco in Latin America. In Kuala Lumpur, clubs such as Blue Boy and Market Place Restaurant & Lounge attract gay tourists, as well as a number of popular "just for men" massage clubs, including Purnama Spa (offering full body massage, Malay traditional massage, aromatherapy, body scrubs, foot reflexology and body waxing) and Sadomen (which offers aroma therapy, body massage, facial treatment, body scrub and milk baths).

Better Safe Than...
Jost makes a final point about the virtues of his site: discrimination pops up in unexpected places.

"Look at my personal story in Barcelona. Issues can happen all over the world, not only in countries that are the most anti-gay."

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