Talking About Gay Travel With Misterb&b Founder, Matthieu Jost

Misterb&b, like many great start-up concepts, was born out of necessity. Founder and entrepreneur Matthieu sat down with me for an interview and revealed the upsetting homophobic incident that spurred the idea for his company. In a nutshell, Jost and his male traveling friend applied as guests at a short-term rental in Barcelona during a trip to Spain but were quickly turned down after the owner realized they were gay. 

He found new lodging in the Catalan capital, but the experience was still painful and disappointing. It got him thinking about what he could do to ensure LGBTQ travelers could find welcoming accommodations all around the world despite their sexual orientation. The ordeal led him to create a revolutionary and long-overdue travel resource for the LGBTQ community.

 

Corey Andrew:

Matthieu, with so many corporations trying to get the gay consumer dollars without actually supporting the community, it’s essential to let listers know that you own Misterb&b —a gay man. You’re a gay man who came up with the idea for Misterb&b after a trip you took to Barcelona in 2014. So, what happened on that trip?

Matthieu Jost:

Yes, everything started from my own experience. I traveled a few years ago to Barcelona with my partner, and we booked a private room. We love to connect with locals, but upon arrival, it was super clear that the host felt uncomfortable about hosting two gay guys. She even asked us, “Are you going to sleep together in the same bed, in a room just next to mine?” So, yeah, it was super unpleasant and very uncomfortable. And we decided to leave. But on our way back to the airport, I told my partner that I didn’t want to leave with such a bad experience — for me, neither for my community. And this is how we decided to create Misterb&b.

Corey Andrew: 

That’s such an important point to share. Brand authenticity is everything —especially to LGBTQ consumers who want to spend their money and go where they are welcomed. Misterb&b provides an opportunity for LGBTQ travelers to earn money from their spare space? Do hosts interact with the guests during their travel? For example, would they show them around town as a tour guide or help them plan? How does it work, exactly?

Matthieu Jost:

Yes, so currently, 65% of our guests are traveling solo. They use Misterb&b because they would love to connect with locals and not feel alone when traveling. And over the years, we realized that because hosts and guests are sharing the same community, the hosts are delivering a higher level of hospitality to the guests. So they are really helping the guests even before their trip. And then, when they’re at the destination, they are taking them out on some excursions or guided tours. But we also realized that many of them became friends after their trips. So it’s really our purpose: connecting the community while traveling. And this is what makes us super proud about Misterb&b.

Corey Andrew: 

One of your key pillars is providing a safe environment – short-term rental for the LGBT community. You’re now the largest gay hotelier globally, with 310,000 hosts in over 135 countries. How do you find the properties you list? And as you offer safe traveling spaces, you also have a Trust & Safety Department. What role does that department play in protecting travelers?

Matthieu Jost:

Yeah, so everyone, every member of the LGBTQ community, can list their place. We have a lot of straight women also that are using Misterb&b to host because they can feel safe. And so this safety is super important for us. So we have developed a specific team that is heading security at Misterb&b. Still, we have also developed a lot of different data science allegories that help us detect any fraudulent listings. And we are doing a lot of ID verification. So if you book with us, you need to verify your ID. For some people, it’s adding friction, but this is key because we really want our community to be super safe while traveling. And if we detect some bad reviews on a listing, we take the listing immediately off the platform to investigate. There are a lot of different measures of trust and safety on Misterb&b.

Corey Andrew:

That’s important. So basically, travelers can feel confident that if they see a listed property on Misterb&b, be it a hotel, a room, private residents, etc.. they’ve met a certain standard to be a part of your network?

Matthieu Jost:

Yes, and also guests can leave a review. This is really important for the community and us. So when you are traveling, you can make the right choice by reading reviews from other past guests.

Corey Andrew:

Travel, in general, has taken a big hit since the pandemic. Many CEOs I’ve interviewed have stayed afloat because of innovation and adapting their business. Did Misterb&b have to adjust? And if so, what are some of the adjustments you had to make?

Matthieu Jost:

Yeah, definitely. Uh, COVID has been the worst, the worst thing I’ve ever lived through as a CEO at Misterb&b. But as you know, we are a marketplace. So our expenses go up or down depending on our business. This was super key for us during the crisis. We also needed to lay off 10% of the staff at Misterb&b. And we negotiated a lot of contracts with different companies working for Misterb&b. It was super challenging, but we are still here, and I think we are stronger than before because of what we went through. 

Corey Andrew:

Yes, so many companies now have learned how to do things differently. And I think once the pandemic is over, they’ll even be stronger as a business. When it comes to the short-term rentals that you offer, it seems like there’s a range of different types. So like from cozy apartments to private rooms, what are some of the kinds of short-term rentals we can find on Misterb&b?

Matthieu Jost:

So our primary offering is private rooms, which means that you’re staying at someone else’s place. It’s a kind of “cheaper” option when you want to travel on a budget and connect with the local community. And more recently, we have added a bunch of new types of places like LGBT-friendly hotels and villas. These are our main types of accommodations. 

Corey Andrew:

So when it comes to the hotels, is there a criterion they must meet as an “LGBT-friendly” establishment? Or is it, as you stated earlier, where you rely on the community to tell you if they’ve had a bad or good experience at the hotel before you list it?

Matthieu Jost:

I would say both. We have curated thousands of hotels with an actively signed LGBTQ charter —an LGBTQ association like the IGTLA, making marketing efforts towards the LGBTQ community. We also take recommendations from the community. So, Yes, the idea is really to vet our offerings, so there are no bad surprises upon reception. 

Corey Andrew:

Again, to stress, the importance of Misterb&b being a gay-owned establishment, you are also involved in giving back to the community for various LGBTQ issues and causes. I commend you on that. Can you share more about your charity work on behalf of LGBTQ causes?

Matthieu Jost:

Since our inception, this has been key for the company to give back to our community. So every year, through an initiative we launched called Mr. For Good, we finance different kinds of NGOs (non-profit organizations). I would say that the last example was an NGO working to help LGBT refugees like in Afghanistan in the past months. And we financed an NGO that helped some LGBTQ refugees escape Afghanistan when the Taliban took power there. So yes, we are trying to help a lot of NGOs. When you book with Misterb&b, you also participate in helping to make a better world for our community. 

Corey Andrew:

Wow, that’s excellent. And when it comes to people wanting to be a host, how does a person go about listing with Misterb&b?

Matthieu Jost:

So it’s super easy to become a host on Misterb&b. You sign up on the website and enter your property details. It’s a super short form, like two to three minutes, and you add some photos. Then, you are immediately online, and your property is bookable. 

Corey Andrew:

That’s wonderful. So after expanding to over 130 countries —and that’s a pretty big deal, I wonder what’s next? What’s the next future vision for Misterb&b?

Matthieu Jost:

I would say that the future vision is to continue to focus on connection and travel. We are working on adding a new feature to help all travelers to find a travel companion. As I said, a lot of them are traveling alone. So, you will be able to connect more easily with fellow travelers who may want to travel with you and be willing to share the cost of a trip. Or be contacted by locals who will be happy to take you on guided tours once you’re at your destination. It’s all about making connections. 

That is really the way we envision the future of Misterb&b. 


 Listen to Corey Andrew’s Interview with Matthieu Jost on the Core Issues Podcast:

 

2 thoughts on “Talking About Gay Travel With Misterb&b Founder, Matthieu Jost”

    • Oh lovely! Thank you for sharing your experience Richard! I’m the author of the article and I really love what Matthieu has done for LGBT travel.

      Reply

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