From hotels to sofas: the evolution of home-sharing
FOR time immemorial people have traveled and needed to find accommodation.
Inns, taverns, hotels, motels, hostels, campsites and now the epidemic of home-sharing have all served to host travelers, feed them, bathe them and give them experiences on all different levels.
The hotel industry has come a long way from charging budget travelers the pleasure of sleeping on straw back in the olden days, as George Orwell describes so well in Down and Out in Paris and London.
Luxury at the time was considered to include en-suite bathrooms, running water and central heating – pretty standard nowadays.
The start of the 20th century saw possibly the world’s most famous hotel, The Ritz London, be built which contained the most extravagant furnishings, amenities, facilities and services money could buy – a lot of money.
Staying at hotels has remained relatively popular for the last century, with every variety of budget and preference being catered for.
Themed hotels saw their heyday in the 80s, casino hotels have remained wildly popular in Las Vegas, luxurious hotels are winners among honeymooners and the rise in eco-hotels have won the hearts of environmentally-conscious travelers.
But nothing compares to the surge in the use of home-sharing platforms which entered the market at the turn of the 21st century.
Where it all began
Back in 1999, Casey Fenton founded Couchsurfing.com, a home-sharing platform which allowed homeowners and travelers to connect.
But it wasn’t until 2004 that the platform found its following. Two years later, the budget accommodation site had so many users, it crashed.
Back up and running, the new site allows millions of travelers to search for a free stay, hosted by like-minded people.
Often, they will give up a bed for you, blow up a mattress or as the name suggests, transform a sofa into a place of slumber.
The concept is for travelers to meet new friends in a place they’re unfamiliar with and not have to fork out for impersonal, bland accommodation.
Couchsurfing.com now has 15 million users and 400,000 active hosts meaning you can stay in thousands of cities around the world while meeting new people and not spend a penny.
After Couchsurfing.com came to Airbnb. The idea began in an e-mail from one of the founders Joe Gebbia to co-founder Brian Chesky when devising ways to make a few extra bucks.
— Bill Gross (@Bill_Gross) February 16, 2016
The now US$30 billion company started with charging $25 dollars for the privilege of sleeping on an airbed in their flat.
Cue the “Why didn’t I think of that?” remarks.
The platform allows homeowners to rent out their properties and earn a small profit.
Airbnb is often cheaper than a hotel and offers guests a more personalized and homely experience.
As the platform has expanded, so have the variety of listed properties. While you may think Airbnb is all about apartment lets in big cities, you can, in fact, stay in grand Scottish castles, lighthouses, and palaces.
But the home-sharing economy isn’t done yet, as the world’s youngest person to travel all 196 countries has just launched his version of “travel Tinder”.
James Asquith became the youngest person to visit every nation on Earth at the ripe age of 24.
While on his travels, Asquith realized there was still a gap in the market when it came to affordable accommodation for travelers.
Asquith, a banker from London, has come up with an app called Holiday Swap which allows travelers the chance to swap homes with each other.
Sounds a bit like the 2006 chick flick, “The Holiday” starring dreamy Jude Law, darling Kate Winslet, dashing Jack Black and delightful Cameron Diaz, right?
The app works by seeing a picture of a property you like and swiping left to notify the owner of your interest.
“A lot of people who’ve used it said ‘I feel like I’m on Tinder,’” Asquith told Business Insider.
Holiday Swap is set up in over 40 countries across six continents and you can filter settings to suit your property preferences.
If someone likes your property, you can match and see their location, property, and availability in more detail.
The swap costs US$1 per bed per night, and homeowners can request a fully refundable deposit to insure against damage or cancellation.
The app is still in its infancy and facing a few troubles with fake profiles. However, Asquith has big plans for the app’s future.
“We are aiming to become a fully integrated travel tool that reduces the cost of travel,” he added.
“Another way of looking at Holiday Swap is a social media travel tool, that gives real savings and new experiences to all of us, by taking out one of the largest costs of travel.”
Asquith insisted to Business Insider the company is not driven by money, “I will never ever sell this company,” he said.
“What probably will make it a really successful app for lots of people to use is that I’m not doing it to flip it and make a lot of money.”
For all those who have been in relationships since before Tinder revolutionized the dating scene, this is your chance to experience the swipe game without cheating – well maybe on your house, but that’s different.