Baba Ken’s Airbnb Story
We’re excited to continue to tell the stories of our amazing New Orleans hosts. The home sharing community in New Orleans has democratized travel and facilitated a more authentic experience. This allows travelers to live like locals and brings economic gains to hosts—as well as to businesses that haven’t always benefited from tourism and hospitality.
Baba Ken is a 53-year-old artist, teacher, and community activist in Pontchartrain Park. He and his partner Mama D host guests in two bedrooms within their home, which is decorated with African and Aboriginal art and textiles, posters from museum exhibitions and cultural events, and hundreds of books on topics ranging from New Orleans history to metaphysics. It also hosts their community arts organization, House of Tribes.
Baba Ken started using Airbnb as a guest when he traveled to art shows around the country. “I love the adventure of it,” he says. “Not everyone is cut out to open their home up to the world, but I’m a military brat—I’ve traveled a lot, went to school in Europe—so I live this culture of travel. It makes places real to me.” Eventually, he and Mama D decided to try opening up their home to see what would happen. “Right from the beginning, we were booked frequently and furiously!” he says. “We’ve had guests from Germany, New Zealand, Taiwan, Nigeria, Kenya. After our first week-long booking, we paid off some bills and booked ourselves a trip.” From that moment, the pair was hooked on hosting.
“NOLA is the crown jewel of the South for artists,” Baba Ken says. Residents and visitors alike are drawn to its continuous festivals, rich jazz history, and beautiful weather.
“I don’t know any Airbnb host who’s charging $500 or even $300 a night like the hotels here do, or any host who’s putting all the money they earn into a savings account—it’s getting invested right back into our local economy in the form of property taxes, home improvement, car repair. Anyone who says Airbnb is bad for neighborhoods must be getting paid to say that.”
Baba Ken thinks it’s no wonder homesharing has caught on so easily in New Orleans. “Airbnb is Southern hospitality on the internet! It comes naturally to us here because it’s what we’ve always done,” he says. “But now, homesharing has also become a savior. It’s a way for us to stay in our homes amid the rising rents, taxes, and utility bills.”