We’re excited to continue the New Orleans host story summer series. 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. Over the next few weeks, we will be introducing members of the Airbnb host community and small business owners from all over the city.
“I always like to greet my guests personally and show them around here myself,” says Storme O’Keefe, 60, a floral buyer for Whole Foods. “Airbnb is a very personal experience—we’re opening our homes! And it’s people’s personal spaces and their lives that guests are entering into. It’s a very trusting situation, all around.”
Storme has lived in New Orleans’ Gentilly neighborhood for the past two years, and hosts travelers in one of her home’s three bedrooms. “This is a bigger house than I thought I was going to buy,” she says. “I don’t need all three bedrooms myself.”
She says she hosts in large part because she loves her guests (“Some of them even send me cards from their future travels”), but the additional earned income is also key. “It doesn’t sound very glamorous, but I use the money to pay bills and other regular life expenses. I actually paid down my debt as well. The extra money is very, very helpful.”
According to Storme, Gentilly is a “classic old Creole neighborhood” three miles from the French Quarter, where old-time New Orleanians used to have their country homes. Now, Storme says her nice, low-key neighborhood is a perfect place for visitors to NOLA who want to be close to the action, but don’t want to stay right on Bourbon Street. “New Orleans offers a lot,” she says, “so I talk to my guests, get to know what they like, then try to match that vibe with my recommendations. I’m giving my guests a unique experience, sharing what I have, and helping to support myself.”
Storme says her Airbnb guests are very respectful. “They’re quieter than my neighbors, that’s for sure!” she says. “I just live here by myself and have one or two people stay here with me sometimes. It’s just a quiet little thing.”
It’s up to both hosts and guests to make home sharing work for the larger community. “For hosts, it’s not a set-it-and-forget-it thing; you need to be there for your guests when they have questions and need advice. And for guests, they should understand that they’re coming into someone’s home, and it’s not a hotel. At my place, there’s no pool, no tennis court. It’s just a nice bedroom in a house. I think some people have only ever traveled using hotels, so it could take a little getting used to.”
But that unique quality of Airbnb accommodations is what Storme says she likes best. “When I travel with Airbnb, I can easily imagine, ‘What would it be like if I lived here?’