Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio.
How Black Millennials Are Changing The Vacation Rental Unit Industry
Traveling registered nurse Brittnei Burns started her vacation rental unit business in 2021 while seeking out new ways of accumulating passive income. Like many Black millennials, Burns was burnt out on the workforce and, after years spent working as a bedside nurse, she aspired to make some money that was a bit more stress-free and less time-consuming.
“This has motivated me to be able to create a space where I can get the most bang for my buck just sitting back and allowing the money to roll in with as little input from me as possible,” Burns said.
Burns is one of the hundreds of African-American millennials who have entered the VRU industry over the last few years. All over America, Black, millennial-owned short-term rental units have been popping up catering to a mass demographic and creating a space for Black travelers to reside safely while vacationing. These individuals come from a variety of different backgrounds and industries with a common goal of leveraging passive income to reach financial freedom.
Many millennials have been operating in the workforce for at least a decade and have grown exhausted from the high demands, low pay, and lack of appreciation from US employers. Burns believes this is why more Black young people are investing money in Airbnb and VRBO properties because they are tired of working for someone else.
“We are very overworked and extremely unappreciated,” Burns said. “We are different from our ancestors and those before us who were taught to just put your head down and get run over by these large companies. We are not standing for that anymore. So that yet again is another reason people have decided to take matters into their own hands to become entrepreneurs and start their own businesses because we really want to get out from under these people’s thumbs.”
Kristen Crawford and Kim Borrero started their Airbnb unit in Houston recently for similar reasons. The pair are avid travelers and prefer to stay at Airbnbs over hotels and resorts while traveling. When they begin curating a unit of their own, they wanted to create a safe, reliable space for travelers of color that was personable and felt like home.
“We always knew we wanted to provide that same feeling for others because we always feel more connected to the place we’re visiting when we stay at an Airbnb,” Crawford said.
Black millennial VRU hosts are seeing major success in the industry due to their presence online and organic word-of-mouth promotion. The blog Journey Black Home curated a list of over 300 black-owned Airbnbs organized by each state for Black travelers to choose from when traveling. Crawford and Borrero also noted that many Black travelers opt to only stay at black-owned VRUs so the funds continue to circulate among Black unit hosts. Many travelers prefer these rentals over hotel rooms and resorts.
“Black millennials are taking over in that sense because there is a drive and a hunger to want to support our people and if this is one avenue to do it, then let’s keep it going,” Crawford said.
Burns says Black millennials also bring a different perspective to the industry because of their unique experience as young people of color living in America.
“Because of the hardships we have faced as a whole, we’re able to put that art into a place where someone else can come from the outside and kind of just let their hair down and be in that space,” Burns said.
Crawford and Borrero see great success and abundance in their future as VRU hosts. They received their first booking within 48 hours of posting their home and have seen an increase in bookings since launching. The pair were very intentional with the decor and furniture in the unit to set a memorable vibe that sets the tone for guests while they’re on vacation.
“We wanted to create a space that connects to us, even when they can’t physically feel us,” Crawford said. “I think that’s the end goal for us. We want to be felt.”
Hoping to turn their passion into purpose and provide as many memorable vacation experiences in as many locations as possible, Crawford and Borrero are dedicated to their cause. They plan to expand and build more units across the country. Burns also plans to create more VRUs as well. She also has started consulting with other prospective VRU hosts who are interested in learning more about starting an Airbnb.
“There is this hunger and drive that people of color that are millennials have when they have something that’s theirs that they can provide for others,” Borrero said. “We’re at an age where a lot of us glorify the entrepreneur route and kind of just desire to be self-sufficient.”