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Washington Blade: LGBTQ News, Politics, LGBTQ Rights, Gay News: App seeks to make vacationing safe for LGBTQ travelers

The landing page for gay travel app misterb&b opens with a slideshow of stock photos of two men in a white-tiled kitchen smiling at each other, two women in rose-colored shirts with one draping her arm over the other’s shoulder, and a series of other images of people sitting at tables smiling cheerily while seemingly having conversation. Next to the slideshow is a text box with a rainbow flag banner.

“Where do you want to go? NYC or Paris?” the prompt reads. 

When Paris-based entrepreneur Matthieu Jost created misterb&b in 2014, he was fresh off a disappointing experience where a vacation rental host in Barcelona, Spain denied him entry because “she found out we were gay and [my  partner and I] would be sharing a bed under her roof.”

Powered by the feeling of never wanting to experience such a dehumanizing moment again, he created an LGBTQ-centric app centered on safety and connection. For almost a decade now, misterb&b has given LGBTQ travelers access to more than a million queer-friendly accommodations and an opportunity to connect with other LGBTQ locals in their travel destinations. 

“The name misterb&b came from the app’s original focus on gay male travelers,” said Jost in an email. “I had traveled to Barcelona with my partner and our home share rental house rejected us from her home…We left and I decided I never wanted to have the same experience again, for myself or for my community.” 

Getting into travel app development, however, wasn’t uncharted territory for Jost. He was part of a team in 2010, which included French gay magazine Têtu, that created gay lifestyle and travel website The site drew inspiration from American travel company Tripadvisor, Inc. and became one of Europe’s top directories for LGBTQ travelers. 

This experience, paired with his co-founder’s ownership of a popular French short-term rental company, helped Jost to amass the data needed to make suitable recommendations for misterb&b’s users. 

“misterb&b is about connecting people globally through travel, and it offers a layer of connection that other travel apps don’t,” said Jost. “Seventy percent of misterb&b’s user base are solo travelers looking to find like-minded people to connect and travel with.”

Jost added that the app “offers users a unique opportunity to share experiences,” and users can connect on the platform and share their itineraries. 

User safety is addressed by ensuring that they provide proof of identity and address to authenticate themselves. Additionally, misterb&b relies on artificial intelligence technology to identify fraudulent activity. 

For those who visit misterb&b to offer to host travelers in their properties, their identity is protected by the company’s policy of not operating in countries listed on the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Control sanctions list. Hosts in homophobic countries also have their profile pictures blurred and only other misterb&b users can access them.

“Some of the countries we operate in aren’t necessarily gay-friendly, but the response from hosts in countries where gay people are persecuted, like Russia for example, has been heartwarming,” said Jost. “It’s hard for LGBTQ+ individuals to meet other gay people in those countries, so we offer the option for hosts to initially hide their profile picture in countries with high frequencies of homophobia or LGTBQ hate crimes for an added layer of safety.”

In the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area, a pair of hosts have showered the company with glowing praise.

A 2019 question and answer blog post that features a gay host couple from Linden, Va., describes their hosting experience as something positive they have been able to provide to “hundreds of people.”

“We spent many years in D.C. fighting for LGBTQ rights, which has finally paid off,” read their answer to a question about what hosting to the gay community meant to them. “We know that there are many other LGBTQ folks who enjoy the outdoors and are not always seeking a city scene… so we want to give those folks a chance to experience a relaxed environment in a cabin that is hosted by gay owners.” 

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