Hosting Your Home - Airbnb host stories podcast

Kevin Rhea (under-represented hosts series)

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Debi Hertert of HostingYourHome interviews Kevin Rhea ("Krhea") of Portland, Oregon, a fellow member of Host2Host. Debi reached out to Krhea because he is one of the few hosts of color in the Portland area, and he is kind, candid, and willing to teach. Debi is starting this series on Hosts of Color to further her own and her listeners' understanding of the issues involved.

Krhea  claims title to being the proud father to a wonderful daughter, lucky husband to an incredible entrepreneur wife, cyclist and founder of Portland Velo Cycling Club, photographer, real estate investor and 20+yr resident of Portland, OR.

Krhea says his wife is an impassioned traveler who has used Airbnb and VRBO a lot.  In his previous career of performance shoe designer, Krhea traveled over 200,000 miles a year but always used hotels. A couple of years ago he and his wife visited a Seattle Airbnb and had a great experience.  She had been encouraging Krhea for some time to consider having an Airbnb in their home, and with some "negotiating" after the Seattle trip, they remodeled their basement and began hosting on Airbnb. They instantly had bookings in the Portland west hills.

Krhea describes his experiences with guests and  Airbnb.  As a host, he had no problems at all with any of his guests.  Part of that might be that he made a point of having a picture of himself and his (white) wife on the listing so that guests could decide if they accepted that or not. He made a point of shaking everyone's hand when they arrived.

He had nothing but great guests and connections with them as a host.  But he gives us a tiny glimpse of what it feels like to be a black man traveling. As a traveler, he describes having car trouble and traffic, and having to call their host along the way to explain their late arrival.  But despite the phone updates, upon arrival at midnight, he found himself unable to knock on their host's door, solely because of his color.

Even though they had perfect guests, Krhea and his wife stopped hosting.  Why?  Several blatantly racial incidents were reported in the press that made them wonder whether Airbnb was doing enough to protect under-represented guests from these situations.  His reaction was to withdraw altogether from the platform. Although Debi and Krhea didn't discuss the specifics, some high profile examples include a neighbor calling the police when a black traveler showed up at the Airbnb next door;  A host canceling a reservation with "One word says it all:  Asian"; and a research study  that found a complete difference when various last names were used in reservation requests. Airbnb has tried for years to eliminate discrimination but it is hugely complex.

Most hosts would likely be truthful in saying they are not racist, or feel racists.  We may view our hospitality as being excellent, but is it enough to just feel like we are being welcoming?   How many hosts have any idea of what goes through their guest's head when the guest has had a lifetime of bad experiences? We hope that this series "hosts of color" can be an opening for some hosts.

The goal of the Hosts of Color podcast series is to help teach those hosts who are receptive, and possibly to reach some hosts who don't yet understand.  Debi recognizes her own limited understanding of the universe of racial issues and is using these interviews to learn for herself.


Color of Change:  This is the largest online racial justice organization in the country. 

Airbnb's "Project Lighthouse" is trying to eliminate discrimination, working with multiple groups such as Color of Change, AACP and others.

Host2Host is the Oregon-based non-profit trade association "for hosts, by hosts".

Hosting Your Home is the website for the podcast about hosting with Airbnb.


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