VRS478 – Everything You Need To Know About Inclusive Hospitality with Robert Geller of FabStayz


This episode of the Vacation Rental Success Podcast is sponsored by OwnerRez
The World's Most Powerful Vacation Rental Management Platform That Homeowners And PMs Rely On


“Airbnb is currently investigating a Dallas-based host who allegedly denied a gay couple from booking on its platform.”

This was a headline that reached news outlets on the day this episode was recorded and was a timely reminder that inclusivity is still not wholly embraced across the short-term rental community – even in 2023.

Robert Geller is the founder of Fabstayz, the niche listing site for the LGBTQ+ community that promotes inclusive hospitality, and joins Heather to share tips on how to foster a welcoming space and remove barriers to safety and inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community.

Robert shares:

  • What inclusivity means from an LGBTQ perspective
  • Some statistics on the LGBTQ+ market for short-term rentals
  • How hosts and managers can make their listings more inclusive
  • How to make images more inclusive
  • Making amenities gender neutral
  • Ways to write a host description that will make guests feel welcome
  • How using gender-neutral dialogue can convey so much more than a language choice

Links:

How to Become a Fab Host

Find Robert Geller:

Find FabstayZ:

Andrea Bayer

Welcome to this episode of the Vacation Rental Success Podcast. This episode is brought to you by the kind sponsorship from OwnerRez. Providing a powerful and flexible system for managing vacation rental properties, OwnerRez provides booking and maintenance management, payment scheduling and collection, as well as insightful reporting. OwnerRez will provide you with a long-term booking foundation that is scalable for your vacation rental rental business, while fully managing your channel listings, but still focusing on your brand, your website, and your way of doing things. Listen-in to the mid-episode break where you will hear more about this internationally recognized leader in vacation rental software. For more information about OwnerRez, click the link in the description of this episode on your smart device. Let's get started. Here is your host, Heather Bayer.

Heather Bayer

In today's show, I am talking to Robert Geller of FabStayz and we're talking about how to be an inclusive host.

Heather Bayer

This is the Vacation Rental Success Podcast, keeping you up to date with news, views, information and resources on this rapidly changing short-term rental business. I'm your host, Heather Beyer, and with 25 years of experience in this industry, I'm making sure you know what's hot, what's not, what's new, and what will help make your business a success.

Heather Bayer

Well, hello and welcome to another episode of the Vacation Rental Success Podcast. This is your host, Heather Bayer, and as ever, I'm super delighted to be back with you once again. I've just come back from a really exhausting hour playing pickleball. Yes, I have joined the Pickleball Nation and some people you may know, who are getting really involved with this.  Sarah Bradford of Sarah and T talks about it a lot. Andy Meddick, the former owner of Sea Change Vacation Rentals and many others I know are now spending their time out on the pickleball courts. Now what was really deemed to be a sport for, let's say the more mature person, has now become the fastest growing sport in North America.  And people are playing it from age 8, my granddaughters play it, right the way through to people into their seventies and eighties.  There's even sponsored professional pickleball now on TV, which shows this is a sport that is not going away. And the reason I mention it is, if your property or properties are anywhere near pickleball courts, then it's really worthwhile including that in your description of amenities or local activities for them, because there are going to be groups of people that will choose your property over something similar if it's closer to the nearest pickleball court – so just a thought. I was just thinking about that.  I was talking to some people on the courts this morning who were staying in some local condos in Gulf Shores, and one of them said to me that she chose the condo she was staying in because of all the pickleball options that there were around. So I just thought I'd throw that in this morning, because anything that's going to push you over and above the competition is obviously good.

Heather Bayer

So today I am delighted to be talking to Robert Geller, the founder of FabStayz.  I first met Robert in London in 2019 at the Host 2019 Show and then again just this last October at the Book Direct Show in Miami. On the first occasion in London, he was presenting his own workshop on inclusive hospitality, and in Miami he was on a panel talking about inclusive hospitality in general. And I was really taken with this because there are so many things we can do as hosts and managers to be more inclusive. And that's from the way we present our listings, even to the types of images that we put on our websites and a lot more. And I wanted to bring Robert onto the show to give us more of an insight into how we can be more welcoming, not only to the LGBTQ+ community, but to all of our travelers, regardless of their diversity. So, without further ado, let's move on over to my interview with Robert Geller.

Heather Bayer

So I'm super happy to have with me today Robert Geller of FabStayz.  Robert is no stranger to the Vacation Rental Success Podcast.  I interviewed Robert maybe a couple of years ago now. Robert, pre-pandemic?

Robert Geller

Yes, it was.

Heather Bayer

Yes, pre-pandemic. And just after we met for the first time at Host 2019 in London, which was such a great event.

Robert Geller

It was.  It was great to meet you and other individuals here in the US, that I ended up meeting them in London.  To get to meet Erica, who lives just down the road in Orlando. But it took going to London to meet everyone.

Heather Bayer

Oh, I know. It was just such a great group. We all went out to dinner a couple of times, I think.  We just all clicked, really, and had such a great time. Was that your first time, at Host 2019, where you did actually go up on the stage and do your presentation?

Robert Geller

That was my first time being invited to speak on inclusive hospitality. Yes.

Heather Bayer

And it was excellent. Nobody would have known, ever, that it was the first time. I thought you did brilliantly. But here we are several years later. Now, we've been through the pandemic and we met again recently at the Book Direct Show in Miami, and you were on a panel talking about inclusivity in general, how to be inclusive. So on the panel was yourself and Neely Khan – She was on that panel, and who else was on the panel? Matteo Bradford and John Stokinger.

Robert Geller
[John Stokinger] He was my kayaking buddy when we were at VRMA in San Antonio. We went kayaking in downtown San Antonio on the riverfront. It was super cool.

Heather Bayer

Did you really? I had no idea you could do that.

Robert Geller

Yeah, that was cool.

Heather Bayer

That is cool. I've been on the river trip, but not done a kayak. Maybe next time.  Anyway, you had this fantastic panel about being inclusive, and it was quite an eye opener for me. And since then, I've explored your website a bit more, and I know that you really are focusing on helping hosts be more inclusive. So this is why I wanted to have you back on the show and discuss this in greater detail. So let's kick off because maybe there's somebody out there, Robert, who doesn't know who you are and what FabStayz is. Can you give us a brief overview of how you got into this business and what your company is and does?

Robert Geller

Certainly. First. My name is Robert Geller, as you had mentioned, my pronouns are he, him, his. I've been a short-term rental host since 2016 – I started off as a home-share host. So the guest was staying in the next room – their own bedroom and bath, and it was through that experience I saw an opportunity to improve both the guest and host experience for members of the LGBTQ+ community and for those allies and hosts that want to welcome LGBTQ+ travelers and feel comfortable doing that.

Robert Geller

Often people want to know what was my discrimination story, which there wasn't one. Really what it came down to was that any of us in the LGBTQ+ community, we have our own coming out experience, and we have that with our family members, at a new job, at a new school, and then travel, sadly. We have that, and we live that coming out again and again, and we carry that baggage with us. We carry that experience and wonder, Oh No! Is this going to happen again? Is it going to happen when I'm looking at listings to decide where I'm going to book?  Just looking to see, is this a welcoming inclusive space?

Robert Geller

Is the communication with that host going to be inclusive? Am I going to have to, when I say partner, what's going to happen there? Which, Heather, you know, our discussion is so timely because just last week, here we are, 2023, the second week of January, and a gay couple was refused accommodations from an Airbnb host in Texas, last week, in 2023! And I share that with you and your audience because what I'll often hear, Heather, when I'm at a conference or online, people will say, a host might say, “Oh, I don't discriminate, I don't need what you do”. And that's not what FabStayz is about and our education is.  It's just like, maybe you have family travelers or maybe you have nomadic travelers who want Wi-Fi, or family travelers that want a Pack ‘n Play. How are you letting your guests know that you have the amenities, that you have that welcoming space, that you have the accommodations that are going to suit their needs? So that's what our discussion is going to be about.  How do you position your listing? How do you be known and feel comfortable welcoming diverse guests?

Heather Bayer

Well, let's kick off with, just very broadly, what does inclusivity actually mean? I mean, I think we've covered a little bit of that in your opening introduction there, but let's go into that a little bit more from an LGBTQ+  perspective

Robert Geller

Certainly, and essentially because often when I'll join panels at vacation rental conferences, I'm a big opponent of using the term in our space DEI, that's diversity, equity, and inclusion. And that's what is typically the term that is used. And why I shy away from that term is that I think people shut down when they hear that. They're like, Uh oh!  It's almost like, okay, I've got to go into the conference room with the fluorescent lights and get my DEI training. I like to reframe that. And I've done this at VRMA. I've done this at other conferences. And when I'm invited on panel, I'm like, you say DEI, you're going to shut the audience down. Let's talk about inclusive hospitality. So what does that mean? It is projecting on your listing, on your website. It's communicating it's through imagery, through language, that you are offering a safe, welcoming space to diverse guests. Now, I'll sometimes put in the word diverse guests in place of LGBTQ+, because in some of our inclusive hospitality training, we bring in ‘we're about inclusivity'. We're not going to leave anyone out. So we will talk about in our training, for instance, the parallels of the black traveler and the LGBTQ+ traveler – really interesting parallels there. So it's about welcoming diverse guests, and of course, we do focus on LGBTQ, but inclusivity is a broad term that all feel welcome.

Heather Bayer

Okay, that is a great explanation, and I want to sort of delve a little bit deeper into this. Now, in terms of practicality, how can hosts and managers actually do this on a practical level?

Robert Geller

Absolutely. And I'm chuckling a little bit to myself and probably out loud when you're asking this, because I remember at maybe my first or second VRMA on a panel talking about inclusive hospitality, and a property manager came up to me after the conversation, and they're like, okay, we're all about this. And this person was a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Their company was LGBTQ+ owned. And he was coming up to me saying, how do we do this? And I knew what he was saying was, how do we get recognized as welcoming LGBTQ+ travelers without putting rainbows and pink glitter and boas on every image? And then I'll joke, “Because we do that at FabStayz; that's our job!” But I get where it's coming from. You, us, as property managers, as hosts, short-term rental owners, we want to appeal to a broad array of guests, although we might have certain niches, nomadic travelers, family travelers, etc. So it comes down to what we lay out in our checklist. We have a quick-start checklist, and I'm actually going to refer to it in front of me.

Robert Geller

We break it down into a couple of different sections; the pre-booking experience, pre-arrival, the equitable stay experience.  But to dive into it, it's looking at your language. What is the language you're using in your description? The very first piece, and I'm wringing my hands here because, like the very first piece, and this gets me, is when I see a host description left blank. Okay, that is a lost opportunity right there. Here your guest, your traveler, is looking for a connection, looking for welcoming, and you leave a blank. And that right there is your first opportunity. So the first is going to be putting in your pronouns. As I introduced myself, he, him, his. That in and of itself is conveying, without all the verbiage, that we have a safe, welcoming space. This is who I am. I welcome you to be yourself. It's saying all of that just by putting, him, his. The next piece is making sure you have your description…..did you want to talk about it a bit more?

Heather Bayer

At some point, I do want to talk about language, and I'm going to be very upfront here. I'm the newly minted mother of a transgender daughter. At 47 years old, my first born has shared that she is now my daughter. And I am struggling with pronouns. And I know there is something on your site about misgendering, and because you mentioned pronouns….and I've been doing just a ton of reading.

Robert Geller

You're a great mom.

Heather Bayer

I knew nothing about this. Now I'm learning a lot. And certainly before this happened, which is way back in last summer, that I finally found out that my daughter had experienced so much angst for 40 plus years and has now felt free enough to share exactly where she is now, which is absolutely amazing and I support it every single day. But I get it wrong over and over again. And I read stuff that say, you've got to be so careful with language. You've got to never misgender somebody. And that's something I find confusing. And I think it's interesting to have this discussion now.

Robert Geller

Yes, and I apologize for interrupting you because you've touched on some great issues right there. First, I think you're doing a tremendous job. You have embraced your daughter. I can see you, I can see you smiling and glowing as we're recording this. I have the image, and I've talked with you in person in Miami. So I can see the compassion and the embracing environment that you're trying to create. And that in and of itself, you're sitting up an environment where it's going to be okay to make a mistake. You know what, you're going to make a mistake, and we're all going to make mistakes. But if it's coming from a place of understanding and compassion and wanting to learn and understand, then it's okay, we're going to make mistakes. But I think the important part is when we do make a mistake, we're feeling the guilt of the mistake, that's on us. That's not on the individual that we're communicating, that we're engaging with. They've accepted your apology and understand where it's coming from. They've already moved on and let go; it's us. When we make the mistake, it's burning us up, and we feel guilty, we feel foolish, and we beat ourselves up.

Robert Geller

That's all on our own. That other individual understands it's coming from compassion, and they've moved on. And I share that with you, Heather, because I make mistakes. We all make mistakes, and I continue to learn. Our education is ongoing. Yes, we have a quick-start checklist, but we offer our host ongoing education for the very point that culture changes, language changes, language evolves. What may have been appropriate a year, two years, three years ago may be actually offensive today. So it's staying engaged, learning, and being open, like just a quick one, like, it's LGBTQ+ is what we use. It used to be GLBT, and then it changed. And there's some story and history there, which is pretty interesting. So that's just one example.  Even I've made a mistake. I once I said transgendered, it's not the ‘-ed'. The individual is transgender. That was a mistake I made, and I was corrected right there on the spot. And the person said to me, you're not gayed, you're gay. I'm transgender. Like, okay, I'm open to learning, so we're going to make mistakes. But language is evolving. It's being open to hearing the message.

Heather Bayer

But I like the idea, and it's something it's why I shared that, because I'd never realized this before. I would see that somebody had on a listing, had their pronouns, and I'd think, why are you doing that? What's the point? Now I understand. Now I understand why. And that is certainly from an inclusive perspective, that is a welcoming thing to do.

Robert Geller

It is. And it's interesting, we work with visitor bureaus that we promote their destinations as inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community. I was working with an individual over there, and I wanted to give their boss a compliment on the work that they were doing. I didn't know their pronouns, and I didn't want to assume and I actually felt a little uncomfortable because they didn't have their pronouns on the signature, and I didn't want to misgender them, but just from my own sensitivity. And so I would use they or them to ensure that right there is an example of gender and neutral language that we would use in our own communication with guests as well.

Heather Bayer

Okay, that is great, and I'm glad you touched on that to make sure that we brought that out. So let's go back to the practicality of making this listing more inclusive. And you talked about the host description. I mean, for me, it's also in terms of a website and having an About Us page. So many people miss this About Us page, that is such a great opportunity to share inclusivity as well as the personality behind the person or persons, people who are operating the business or the home.

Robert Geller

Exactly. We're all consumers. We're all voting with our dollars on what business we're going to support, what property we're going to use, one versus another, two doors down from each other. The about section and the host description section are an amazing opportunity to draw that guest in. And you don't have to come out and say, we welcome gays, just come across as being inclusive. There's language, there's crafting of your message. For instance, if you were to share your interest in travel and experience other cultures and food, you're right there communicating – I'm open, I'm open to learning, I welcome all. So you can say it – you know, wordsmithing and being creative, giving a personality. So there are ways to say and communicate and convey inclusivity, and welcoming, and safety, without having to say those words that might not be as eloquent and as flowery and pretty.

Heather Bayer

Let's talk about images as well, because you had touched on the types of images that people expect to associate, the rainbows and the colorful and bit of glitter or whatever. And you do mention on your list inclusive images. What does that mean? What could you do? I've looked at images on property websites, and I thought, how can you show inclusivity in an image?

Robert Geller

Right. Well, what you're touching on, too, at the same time is, and I know all the hosts and property managers that I've been blasting again, is we all have experiences and we all say this, that guests aren't reading our listings. How many times we talk about that? Right? Well, I also share with hosts that members of the LGBTQ+ community, we are reading your listings. We are looking for hints. Is this a safe, welcoming space? We're reading, maybe reading between the lines, if there might be a hint of what could be perceived as not as welcoming, and this is not my discussion, and that is not a political platform, but there's a perception on certain areas of the world. Well, actually, no, that's not even a perception, that's reality, because homosexuality is punishable by death in 10 countries, and it's criminalized in 64. So, that is a fact. And also the fact that here in the US, in 2022, there were over 300 anti-LGBTQ+ pieces of legislation introduced. So the LGBTQ+ traveler has that baggage, and already has that sensitivity and wondering, is this going to be a welcoming safe space?

Robert Geller

So, not that we have a chip on our shoulder, but we're like, okay, we have our defenses up. And so I've seen hosts share in their image gallery an inclusive message and it could be something they got from Etsy, or I've seen many different examples. There's multiple hosts in Portland, Oregon, one of our top markets, I've seen multiple different iterations of a sign that has an inclusive message on it. So that's one that I've seen, and there's many different examples of that.  I've also seen it demonstrated – this was a host in Oklahoma City that in her image gallery she was showing pictures of her bathroom amenities and her amenities were inclusive. So they were inclusive of hair types. She had products for individuals with kinky curly hair and so she was demonstrating it through imagery of her amenities in the bathroom. Another example would be if your property does weddings and you're showing images of weddings taking place there.  You need to be cautious; are all your images of white cisgender individuals with blonde hair and blue eyes?  That's not resonating with everyone, so that would be another example. And that other image is going to be, if you can do an About Us section and you're going to show your team, how does that image come across?  Maybe your team is all white and maybe they're all blonde, but you're wanting to convey inclusivity and maybe that image isn't going to resonate with everyone.  Perhaps bring in everyone's family, so we're showing more diversity in the families of the individuals that work for your company. So those are just some examples of how to incorporate inclusivity in imagery.

Heather Bayer

Oh, that's really interesting. I hadn't thought that maybe a sign or something on the wall, because I know that a lot of hosts like to have the images of not just the major images of the bedroom or the living room, but they focus in usually on those kitschy beach themes. ‘We're at the beach', and ‘We've got to relax', and ‘We've got to drink'. But have an image of something that is inclusive. I had not thought of that. So I think that's a great idea.

Heather Bayer

So I'm just going to take a short break from the interview to go over to our sponsor OwnerRez and ask another question of Paul Waldschmidt, the founder.

Heather Bayer

Hey, Paul. Welcome back. So providing robust channel management is so important in a software, and I know this from being a property manager myself for 20 years. So what features makes the OwnerRez system stand out?

Paul Waldschmidt

Yeah, there's a bunch of ways we stand out. I think the first one that I'm most proud of is speed and transparency of the integrations, which I think is something that's not really focused on enough by some of our competitors and others. It's either, yeah, we integrate or yeah we don't. But what is the speed and the transparency of the integration. That's one of the reasons we have avoided working with middle managers or kind of outsourcing the integration to others, because we want that speed and transparency to be controlled and demonstrated ourselves. We expose, for instance, in our dashboards, what's syncing across between all the various rates and rules and content and availability, when exactly it's synced between the last time something changed in our system. It could be something very, very small, little tiny rule on a day that says, I don't want a certain minimum number of nights on Christmas. We show that and then we show how soon until it's going to sync, and then bookings and tax settings and other things that are coming in from the channel. So we show the speed and transparency of that. We also strive to integrate with every part of the channel.

Paul Waldschmidt

Do you integrate with Airbnb, Vrbo…..? Fill in the blank. But the better question is, how much do you integrate? How much do you wrap your arms around their full feature set? And one of the pain points for homeowners and PMSs is moving from platform mode to integrated mode. And so you don't want to move from platform to integrated only to find out that what you had in the platform was more feature-full and faster and better. And now, yeah, you can manage 50 properties because you're integrated from one spot, but you don't get the same control, you don't get the same richness in terms of feature set. So there's a lot we could talk about here, but it's really paid off. As an elite partner of most of the channels, it's great now to see what that has done that speed the transparency and bringing those channels now to us. They come to us, they ask our opinion. We pilot a lot of early features, so I think a focus on both those two things has really paid off well.

Heather Bayer

Great. Thank you. And now back to my interview with Robert Geller of FabStayz.

Heather Bayer

Let's talk about the guest communication. I'm sort of going to the Tyann Marcink model here. Not the general model, which is you don't communicate with the guests between booking and stay, but the Tyann model that says I can send up to 20…..

Robert Geller

…Or 22, I forget what the number was these days.

Heather Bayer

Yes. For those listening, this is a reference to Tyann's presentation at the Book Direct Show, where she talked about one particular guest group where she had 22 communications with them between booking and stay. Having said that, Tyann will be a guest on the show in a couple of weeks time and we're going to be talking about her methods of property management now that she is a full time property manager, as well as all the other hats she has. So that aside, you will be hearing from Tyann soon.  But it is important that the messaging carries on after booking and before they arrive at the door.  And I think, for people who need to feel safe and welcomed, I think that is ever more important. Right?

Robert Geller

It is. And it's all the pieces, Heather, working together. It's not just doing one and thinking, oh, okay, I'm inclusive now. It's all of the pieces together, cumulatively are creating and conveying an inclusive, welcoming, safe space. And communication is so important, and ensuring that the language is staying gender neutral. And when I'm saying gender neutral language, I'd love to give another example of gender neutral language. And it applies to so many different things. It applies to amenities. Robes aren't his and hers objects are not gendered, whether it be slippers or robes, as are bedrooms. In the Kissimmee Orlando, where themed bedrooms for family travelers are so popular, it's not, oh, we have a boy's room with cars, we have a girl's room with princesses. You name the themed room versus it's a boy's/; t's a girl's. So when we're talking about language and neutral, it's applied throughout the listing; the communication, the description of the images. And I do want to touch on something really important here, is someone could be listening and saying, oh, no, here we go, another woke conversation.

Robert Geller

And I hear that out in social media, but I'm going to share this with you.  And I probably should have started off with this, but, you know, I'm not the only one talking about inclusive hospitality. Disney has incorporated inclusive hospitality into their language with all of their guests across all of their properties, across all of their parks. This is also something that Booking.com commissioned a survey that was released just this summer, in June 2022. It was an LGBTQ+ travel survey that found that 82% of the LGBTQ+ travelers had experienced a less than welcoming or uncomfortable experience. And that 39% would like to see filters that allow them to identify properties that offer a positive experience for LGBTQ+ guests. So there's the billion dollar Booking.com.  And then Airbnb, on June 19 this summer, sent out an email to all hosts on inclusive hospitality. So it's not just me talking about this, and this is not something that's woke. This is making sure that we're in the hospitality business. Hospitality is ensuring that everyone is feeling welcome. Yes, we want to make sure our calendar is full, and yes, we're maximizing dollars and we might use pricing tools, etc.  But we're in the hospitality business, and that is to ensure that everyone, diverse guests included, all feel welcome, safe, and included.

Heather Bayer

That could sort of segue off into something else, because over the course of the last few years we've heard of so many people talking about getting into Airbnb, and it's an investment, and sit back and don't do a thing.

Robert Geller

Passive income!

Heather Bayer

Passive income? How the heck does you get passive income and hospitality in the same sentence? So, yeah, we probably won't segue into that. It's just something that always crosses my mind when anyone talks about how this business is about hospitality. It's not about investment and making money.

Robert Geller

And so often that gets lost. If you're in a Facebook group for short-term rental…. Airbnb, Vrbo…, you don't often see the word hospitality. You hear a bunch of whining, “Look, my sheets got stained.” “Oh, they want to come in early or late.” I mean, this is hospitality. How are you exceeding guest expectations? How are you creating great memories for your travelers, like Tayann does, but she's going to tell you about some of the incredible experiences that she shared with her guests. Like the guest – I know she's going to share this – the guest that had the broken dishwasher, but gave her a five star rating for an amazing experience. So it's just like that. It's exceeding expectations, and it's a great hospitality experience.

Heather Bayer

Yeah, exactly. Those statistics you shared from Booking.com, they're quite astonishing. Can you just share that first one again?

Robert Geller

Yeah. And this is also available to anyone to download, it's part of our toolkit, and it's 82% of the respondents stated that they had an experience that was less than welcoming or an uncomfortable experience when traveling. That was 82%.

Heather Bayer

Was there anything there that described what those experiences were? I'm turning this around now. So how does a host inadvertently make somebody feel uncomfortable or contribute to somebody feeling uncomfortable without perhaps even understanding that they're doing that?

Robert Geller

Right. Well, I think about the term ‘partner' in communications, and it's all of us, and I talk about me having to do my work as well. It's undoing some of the stuff that we've been assuming that's become second nature to us, because of society or whatever it might be. We hear the word partner. Well, someone shared with me – female – said the word ‘partner'.  Automatically, I'm going to admit this, I assumed, oh, I didn't know XYZ was a lesbian. Well, she's not. She used the term ‘partner' to describe her significant other, and Boom! I admit I was wrong and I was making the assumption. So that's just one simple little trigger. I've talked to guests that – gosh, these are really hard stories – where I remember one was telling me that they had their profile picture of themselves with their partner with a rainbow flag behind them, so that this way the guests could go ahead. If they were going to deny them a booking, just go ahead and do it before even engaging in a conversation. I mean, that's the kind of stuff that the LGBTQ+ traveler is carrying around with them.

Robert Geller

So even if you, on the hosting side are saying I don't discriminate, I have a good welcoming place.  It's not about you.  It's your guest, who sadly is coming with a lived experience of having been denied, been felt less than, and they're carrying that with them, and there's a sensitivity of, okay, how is this communication going to go? Am I going to feel welcome when I say partner? Is the communication going to go dead?

Heather Bayer

Yeah. Interesting. I'm just going to tell you from my experience as being a property manager, and we struggled with this for a while because we screened our guests and we screened our guests for party-ers basically. So we always had this little struggle. So we find there were 8 guys coming to stay at the property, 8 guys in their 30s maybe, and alarm bells would go off saying, they're going to come, they're going to party, it's a bachelor party perhaps. So we would usually ask if they're couples, and “I'm not sure, are you couples or are you coming on a guys' trip?” And it was really difficult to do that. What's your thought on that?

Robert Geller

Wow! Yeah! That's thorny right there. You're walking into some thorns….

Heather Bayer

Thorny? Okay. Yes.

Robert Geller

I think what's interesting, what you described, each of us are might conjure up something different. I conjured up, what I heard there – so interesting, we can hear what we process – was that there's a football game, these guys are going to trash your place. Okay? That's what I heard. So it's interesting what our knee-jerk reaction is going to be. I think as a host and a property owner myself, I will ask, what brings you to town? Boom! It could be those 8 plus gentlemen were having their reunion or having a guys' weekend, and it could have been them just watching movies, doing facials, and drinking wine. Who knows? Of course, I thought ‘football' and ‘trash in the place'. Yeah. So it's making sure, if we're going to be asking questions, which of course I feel is totally appropriate, but making sure that they're open-ended and that we're crafting them, so they could not be perceived, and that they're not coming across as alienating.

Heather Bayer

Yeah. I think the way we were pitching it was – if you're couples, you're really welcome. You're just not welcome if you're a bachelor party, you're not  couples. But then, of course, it was taking out the group of 8 friends who may have had the best of intentions. So it was always a tough one.

Robert Geller

Yeah. That steps into some the LGBTQ+ travel statistics is that it's a market that spends over $220 billion a year on travel, that as a segment travels twice as often as the general public with an average of 15-nights paid accommodations each year. So it's a segment of the market that spends money in travel.

Heather Bayer

Yes. And we talk all the time about niche markets, and particularly in these times where people are having challenges in filling their space. So you need to go out and find your target market. And this is an affluent and well-traveled target market.

Robert Geller

It's also a niche that is resilient. The stats that I share with you come from CMI (Community Marketing Insights), that does market research on the LGBTQ+ consumer. And each year they come up with updated statistics and they've shared over time the resiliency of the LGBTQ+ traveler, whether it was 9/11, the downturn of the economy, the pandemic, that the LGBTQ+ traveler/travel came back first, and in large numbers. So, very interesting.

Robert Geller

I, of course, dive into those stats, but it is a very resilient market as well.

Heather Bayer

So how do our listeners find out more about FabStayz and how to list?

Robert Geller

Yeah, well, come over to FabStayz (fabstayz.com). We have a tab that states “Become a Fab host”, and on that tab you will find access to our free downloadable, Inclusive Hospitality Checklist & Toolkit. So that's going to give you a checklist to get you started, maybe it's something that's new, or it could be a refresher. It's also going to give you access to that Booking.com survey along with that Airbnb email message that went out. So it's going to give you those tools as a starting point. And that is for everyone, everywhere. We want the information to be out there. We hope that wets your whistle and you want to become a part of FabStayz, where we promote your listing to LGBTQ+ travelers around the world. But no pressure or sales pitch, if what we're doing resonates with you, we'd love to have you as part of our community.

Heather Bayer

How is it all going, Robert? FabStayz has been going a few years now. What are you seeing in your actual listing site marketplace now?

Robert Geller

It's been super exciting. And of course, riding out, like everybody else, we all rode out what happened during the pandemic, and that affected every single one of us in the space. But it's been really exciting to see, having attended all these different short-term rental conferences, and then also speaking at the different host groups, whether it be host-to-host in Portland, there's a wonderful group in Vermont, and the acceptance and the adoption of the information that we've been sharing and these amazing properties coming on board. Oh my God, we just got one last week in Italy, this amazing property, one in Cabo that looks gorgeous. This tree-house just came in last week in Florida. So I love showing off all the properties that we have on our site to LGBTQ+ travelers. It's pretty exciting.

Heather Bayer

Well, we at Vacation Rental Formula are launching our education platform, and I've been completing a section on marketing titled. “It's not all Airbnb” –  and that was what my presentation at Host 2019 was about, and the fact that niche listing sites are the place that you find that niche listing site, post your property and begin your direct book experience through that. And I would thoroughly recommend that FabStayz is a part of your or anybody's direct book strategy.  I'm using Fabstays in the course, in fact, as an example of one of the top niche sites to list on, because it's very broad, it's not location-based, it is specific to a degree, but it's meeting a massive, massive audience. So I just wanted to share that, too. I think everybody should be there.

Robert Geller

Thank you, Heather.

Heather Bayer

Robert, it's been absolutely fabulous to talk to you. It's great to see you looking well. I know you've been under the weather a little bit and I can see that your eyes are bright and shiny, which they weren't a week or so ago.

Robert Geller

No, they were closed.

Heather Bayer

So, as ever, always just such a pleasure to talk to you. I want to thank you again from the bottom of my heart for the half-hour chat we had in Miami back in October.  That warmed my heart, that conversation. You know, I hadn't been sharing too much before then, and now look at me. I'm as out as my new daughter is.

Robert Geller

I love it. A proud mom.

Heather Bayer

Yeah, exactly. Robert, it's an absolute pleasure. I hope we get to talk again at some point this year face-to-face.

Robert Geller

I look forward to that.

Heather Bayer

Thank you so much for joining me.

Robert Geller

Thank you.

Heather Bayer

Thank you so much, Robert. That was such a lovely conversation, and I think a really, really timely one. As Robert mentioned, this incident that hit news this week about an Airbnb host showing such blatant discrimination, and I'll put the details of that on the Show Notes so you can go and see what actually happened. It did hit the news. Airbnb has banned this host from the platform. But what it's basically saying is that this stuff is still out there, this prejudice is still out there, and this non-inclusivity is still out there. One other thing Robert said that really resonated with me was about language and how language changes and culture changes. And it's a difficult transition, but we've been going through this transition for a number of years now. So I think it's time that perhaps we moved towards accepting how language is changing and stopped butting up against it and saying it's woke, etc.  I'm really open to all changes. The fact that my personal experience has brought it into the spotlight a bit more for me, has been more helpful to me than maybe to somebody who doesn't have that similar experience.

Heather Bayer

But it's definitely worthwhile spending time thinking a little bit more about it, thinking about how you can be more inclusive, making people feel more welcome when they're coming to your property, feeling more included, and just generally feeling that hospitality from you. So I hope you found some useful information here. Definitely go and download the checklist from FabStayz. I'll put a link on the Show Notes where you can go and get that. I've downloaded it, it is comprehensive, it gives you some really good hints and tips on how to be more inclusive within your property.

Heather Bayer

Okay, that's it for another week. I'm heading ,probably to play a little more pickleball today. Go for a walk on the beach. That's what you do when you're in Gulf Shores, Alabama, for the winter when it's snowing at home. I will see you again next week and we'll look forward to being with you once again.

Andrea Bayer

This episode was brought to you by OwnerRez. For more information about this internationally recognized leader in Vacation Rental software, click the link in the description of this episode on your smart device, or head over to vacationrentalformula.com/ownerrez to find out more.

Heather Bayer

It's been a pleasure as ever, being with you. If there's anything you'd like to comment on, then join the conversation on the Show Notes for this episode on vacationrentalformula.com. We'd love to hear from you, and I look forward to being with you again next week.