Robert Geller wants to elevate the travel experience for LGBT travelers.
The Tampa entrepreneur founded FabStayz, an accommodations website designed to remove the “coming out” conundrum.
The site lists apartments, homes and other lodging that run by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender hosts as well as allies. Allies are people who are supportive of the LGBT+ community.
Geller said FabStayz will alleviate anxiety when LGBT travelers contact hosts.
“They might be sending a message to the host referring to ‘my partner’ and waiting for a reply, wondering how it will be received? Or a lesbian couple traveling and being asked, ‘Are you two sisters?’ with a stranger a foot-and-a-half away from you and you have to come out to them,” Geller said.
There’s lots of market potential. LGBT travelers spend more than $200 billion annually on travel, according to Out Now Consulting.
“They travel twice as often as their straight counterparts. They visit Pride events away from their home cities with an average four-night stay. Seventy-seven percent of LGBT travelers have a passport versus 36 percent of the U.S. population,” Geller said.
FabStayz aggregates listings from other accommodations websites, including Airbnb and AllTheRooms.
“The host is not creating a whole new profile. They’re not creating a new description and uploading photos or managing a calendar, all of the typical items on the platform. What they are doing with us is providing us with the listing URL on whatever site they are listed on, and their address. From those two pieces, we are able to pull in information from those other sites, and geotag it,” Geller said.
The listings are subscription-based, with the host paying a monthly fee. FabStayz had a soft launch about two weeks ago. When it goes live with a big launch, Geller expects to charge $8 to $10 a month for hosts to list their properties.
Geller has additional revenue streams in mind, including convention and visitors bureaus and ancillary travel businesses, such as car rental agencies or airlines.
Visit St. Pete/Clearwater has signed on as launch partner, as has AllTheRooms, an accommodations search engine.
Geller also owns Tampa-based travel company Outings & Adventures, and is an Airbnb “superhost,” a description of a host who provides extraordinary experiences for their guests. He initially bootstrapped FabStayz with his own funds. He later joined forces with BuzzFish Marketing in Tampa, a LGBT-owned firm that took on a small piece of equity in FabStayz. He’s also had some local angel investors from the LGBT community, he said.
What would success look like?
“Airbnb has 5.3 million active listings,” Geller said. “ If we can get two percent of their hosts on our platform, that is a successful business for us.”