UPDATE! July, 2021: Anthony just won a $100,000 entrepreneur award!
Anthony Gantt and the birth of At Ease Rentals: Anthony is a smart Marine Corps officer who saw an opportunity and jumped on it. He was changing duty stations (in military terms, “PCS” or permanent change of station) and when he turned in his reimbursement request, it was denied. Why? He had stayed in an Airbnb instead of a hotel. Anthony had made several PCSs before and never had a reimbursement be denied, and this really burned him up. So he began the process of getting the rules changed. We hope you will find this interview along with interviews with Kevin Rhea and CL Reed to be educational.
He began the paperbound process of changing government regulations and had a breakthrough. After a surprising meeting with some government travel officials, he notified the military that he was going to work on a platform that would be an OTA (online travel agency, like Airbnb) for the military. This platform would be one that meets all the various rules for military and civilian government travel. It would allow federal travelers to stay in short term rentals if they so choose. And the other side of the platform works by inviting vacation rental managers and individual STR hosts to list on the platform. The result is his platform At Ease Rentals.
Debi asked him about new hosts on his platform, and about safe travel. Anthony says that bookings are difficult for travelers of color. Hosts would often reply that the dates were not available. Frustrating. And looking out of place in a given neighborhood, for example. But of all the cities he’s traveled to, he finds Orlando to be the model for a good vacation rental experience. He feels that it’s not so much about safe travel as just having to deal with prejudicial bias. Debi asked if Anthony knows about Airbnb’s changes such as not showing the picture until the reservation is made. She also made the point that it seems like no other OTAs besides Airbnb seem to address the issues of discrimination and bias, and while Airbnb hasn’t cracked the code altogether, they at least make earnest attempts to solve the problem.
Anthony spoke about his four daughters, teaching them to be proud and that the only thing that can bring us down is divisiveness. Anthony made the point that diversity just adds higher returns on the investments.
From his standpoint, Anthony sees us as Americans first, like I’m American, African descent. American, Italian descent etc. He doesn’t really like the term like Black American. American first. What can I do to be a contributing member of society? We need to be the beacon and the role model for the rest of the world.
Debi asked, how can we make guests feel more comfortable? Anthony’s response: You can’t fix stupid. If I told you no green eyed person could stay in this house on the lake, you’d be upset. It’s like that. Everyone wants the same thing and be able to book a place without worrying about anything. Debi brought up Krhea’s comment that it’s weird when people say they “don’t see color”. Anthony said it would be like “I don’t see women. I see everyone as a man”. We just want to go to a booking platform and book.
Debi mentioned her picture on her listing websites that says “all are welcome here, no matter your…..” Anthony recommends to look at stock photo site PEXEL. Stock photos of everyone. His point is, use these pix of diverse people with your listing, which is a GREAT idea.
Anthony just got goosebumps. Wanting to reach different travelers, he went to groups on Instagram – black people travel a lot. Anthony talks about spouses of military being 95% women; he looked at their Pinterest and came to a realization of how to market: PINTERIST!
Anthony talks about how hard he’s working on the company, and said he’s acting like it’s one of the 20 hour deployments he knew of from previous military assignments, to work on At Ease while he’s a full time marine.
Deb asked about the meaning of “walking when black”. His answer was that you have different concerns depending on the situation, like if you’re in a mall, high end store, there are eyes that automatically come to you about shoplifting. Traveling while black, you can’t wear sweatshirt and hoodie, and at work while black, is it ok to let hair naturally grow out or is is non professional or not serious. He went to a golf thing, one of the guys had an NBA mask, but none of them are basketball athletes, one of the ladies asked if they were from the NBA, even though most were not exactly athletic anymore…
Talking to his kids: Anthony tells them to be aware of what’s going on. If it’s negative, figure out how to get out of the situation. The one thing that can protect you is education. You have to be aware of the situations you’re in. Strive to be an American first, who happens to look like that.
This podcast first appeared at https://hostingyourhome.com/at-ease-rentals-with-anthony-gantt-underrepresented-hosts-series/