Vacation Rental Options for LGBTQ+ Travelers

Almost every online travel platform has an anti-discrimination policy. Airbnb has been recognized as one of the best places to work for LGBTQ equality based in part on its nondiscrimination policies and equitable benefits structure. 

But the chasm between internal company policies and an individual host’s bigotry can be massive. There have been widely reported instances of discrimination from hosts based on sexual orientation and race. In one 2015 case in Galveston, Texas, a self-professed “straight-friendly” host kicked out a same-sex couple after discovering the booking guest’s significant other was another man. 

After this and similar incidents, an Airbnb spokesperson says the company instituted a “Community Commitment” policy in November 2016. The policy asks hosts to agree to treat everyone in the Airbnb community with respect, regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age.

Andora Kat Williams, a Black lesbian expat author currently living in Tblisi, Georgia, behind the Queer-affirming travel vlog Wandering Soup, knows a thing or two about prejudice and bias. But that’s not what she’s experienced on Airbnb.

For example, in Singapore, where same-sex relationships are not legally recognized, and Malaysia, where there are no legal protections for LGBTQ+ individuals, Kat’s strategy was to be transparent when traveling with a partner. “When I go to reserve, I say, this is who I am,” says Mississippi-born Kat. “I’ve never had anyone turn me down.” 

Transparency may be the best policy for Kat on her world travels, but anonymity is the antidote to discrimination at FlipKey, a vacation rental company owned by TripAdvisor. In addition to terms of use prohibiting discrimination by hosts, profiles are largely anonymized. 

Like FlipKey, listings on Vrbo, another vacation rental platform, feature a “book now” button that minimizes contact between potential renters and property owners. The Expedia Group, Vrbo’s parent company, has a full-time Trust and Safety team monitoring content across their brands for discriminatory content, an Expedia Group spokesperson told us. Anyone found violating the company’s zero-tolerance policy regarding discrimination, harassment, or violence is removed from the Vrbo platform, the spokesperson said. 

Expedia Group, Vrbo and Orbitz’s parent company, has a history of advocating for LGBTQ+ inclusion and equality in travel as well. Orbitz’s “Travel As You Are” campaign, along with a microsite devoted to LGBTQ+ travel, features trip planning guides, directories of LGBTQ+-owned businesses, and a first-person account of a nonbinary individual’s reflection on traveling while trans

Orbitz’s website also has a gay-friendly hotels filter that users can use to find hotel rooms and rental properties that will “go to exquisite lengths to create a safe, nurturing place to rest your head,” the company says. Guests may be more welcomed, but their options may become more limited.