The Blackstone Group Just Bought For $4.7 Billion

The Blackstone Group is a private equity firm that is known as the world’s largest landlord. is also the world’s largest genealogy website with over 6 billion records of family history in the United States alone! The website has DNA tested over 18 million individuals to help provide DNA lineage to patrons. Now, in a new $4.7 billion deal, the two major corporations are joining forces. 

Ancestry operates in 34 countries around the world and is accessible from most places on the planet. The website was originally founded back in 1996 and receives an annual revenue of about $1 billion a year. The DNA testing aspect of Ancestry is relatively new, and allows users to send their DNA to drug companies so they can trace the family line. 

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This aspect has raised a lot of red flags for people, as many want to know what happens to their DNA information after those results are found. The skepticism has gone so far that even the Pentagon has warned US military personnel against using any sort of DNA testing service, placing a hefty emphasis on Ancestry specifically. 

The recent purchasing of the website by Blackstone is also raising a lot of concerns, as many are wondering what a private equity company wants with a DNA genealogy website. The biggest concern that isn’t exactly baseless in its claim is that Blackstone will use this information as a means of discriminating against tenants based on race or socioeconomic status. 

“We are very excited to partner with Ancestry and its management team. We believe Ancestry has a significant runway for further growth as people of all ages and backgrounds become increasingly interested in learning more about their family histories and themselves.”

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US federal housing laws obviously prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants based on things like race, religion, national origin, etc., however, thanks to how advanced technology and social media is today, many real estate companies are able to get away with this discrimination in a more private matter by doing their own research on the people who are renting their spaces. Blackstone, however, recently made a statement on their Ancestry deal, claiming that they’re mainly interested in “digital consumer businesses and investing more money into data development.” 

Basically, Blackstone is more interested in growing digital businesses, as those are the ones that survive the most especially in unexpected circumstances like a global pandemic. The company has responded as well to multiple media outlet posts that are claiming the company is being unclear as to who will have access to individual DNA, as well as how it will impact the many real estate landlords that work for Blackstone. Matt Anderson is a managing director at Blackstone who recently released a statement to the media on this matter. 

“We are deeply committed to following all fair housing laws and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. Furthermore, Blackstone itself will not have access to this data and we will never—repeat never—share it between these two businesses.”

Blackstone, however, has a deep history of discrimination cases and claims filed against them among tenants and landlords. In some of these cases rents rose up to 50% after Blackstone purchased certain housing developments, causing many individuals of a lower socioeconomic status to move out and face homelessness while wealthier clientele could move in and take over.

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DNA Kits Inspire ‘Heritage Travel’ Trend

Tourists are connecting more to their roots with some help from modern DNA technology. DNA testing has become one of the hottest trends within the past few years. Now, travellers are using these kits to help them choose their next destination. Back in May, Airbnb and 23andMe both teamed up to offer up the “heritage travel” product experience. When customers receive their results from 23andMe about their ancestry,  they can use Airbnb to find the best places to stay based on their specific results. The new wave known as “DNA tourism” is taking over especially amongst the younger generations who want to feel more physically connected to their family lineage, instead of just staring at it through a screen. 

“People are using their match list and when they go to places they are connecting with cousins that are still in the old country. And those cousins will go and orchestrate these huge family reunions where everyone will come together. That has been super powerful,” said Ancestry’s director of research, Jenn Utley to AFAR Travel Magazine.

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The process of using Ancestry, 23andMe, or any other DNA testing service is extremely simple. You order the kit online, which can vary in price but is normally around $100, and it gets shipped to your home. From their, the packages have easy instructions to follow that basically just entail spitting into a tube, swabbing the inside of your cheek, and packaging it back up to send to the companies labs. Normally results take about a month to process, and from that point all of your results would be found on a personalized online profile! From that point on, you can begin planning what areas of the world, that you now know you came from, you want to go to. 

“That great unknown concerning heritage has always been important. On top of that, people of African descent who ended up in the United States as a result of the transatlantic slave trade were directly denied knowledge and access to their specific heritages. The search for ancestral information then becomes all the more intensified,” Dianne M. Stewart, an associate professor of religion and African American studies at Emory University, told Vox Magazine.

Stewart continued on in her interview to discuss the importance of DNA tourism especially for individuals of African decent. Stewart is a huge advocate for the Black and Abroad program who originally helped advertise for this new method of tourism through their “Go Back To Africa” marketing campaign, which was used specifically for the reasoning Stewart discussed above. 

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As previously mentioned, Airbnb saw this as a huge business opportunity, and a convenient one. Now when individuals get their DNA results they can work personally with Airbnb to find the best and most authentic type of location to stay at to allow its customers to really embrace their ancestors ways of life. 

According to data from Airbnb, the number of travelers using Airbnb on their heritage trips has increased by 500% since 2014. A large portion of that is thanks to the partnership between the company and 23andMe. Additionally, Airbnb has pages on their website which line up with specific regions that 23andMe use to tell you what areas your family was from. 

Travel agents have also noticed this trend, so if you’re planning on taking a DNA tourist trip, consider planning it with an agent and tell them specifically why your travelling and what you want to accomplish. Travel agents should be able to connect you with the best resources, activities, and places to see while visiting your family’s home land to ensure you get a truly authentic experience.

Regardless of how you do it, heritage tourism is a trend that most likely will be around for years to come. Connecting to your roots is known to be one of the most gratifying human experiences, and allows you to connect with your bloodline. These services are just giving an easier way to go about it!