Author: Ana Alibegova
Looking for a place to stay for a couple of days? Want to visit a city, but have almost no money to spend on accommodation? Want to meet new people and have somebody to show you the city nightlife and give you a sightseeing tour during the day? Then, Hospitality Club and Couch Surfing are the right services for you!
If you are one of those people who just love adventure and meeting new people, visiting places and having fun, then the social networking sites connecting travellers of the world might be interesting to you. These sites are primarily based on the same principle, you open an account – a profile, provide some personal information and some info about your life, interests, hobbies and you start connecting with people from all over the world! The people who are ‘into this business’ are pretty satisfied with the outcome of all this networking. On the other hand, however, there are also those who think that this is “crap”, that the network is full of liars, who will let you sleep on the balcony or will lock you in their apartment. A bit of an exaggeration, possibly. Everybody’s story is different, but one thing is for sure – unforgettable moments during the ‘hospitality time’ or the ‘couch surfing’.
Hospitality Club – the largest online hospitality exchange organization
If you visit the Hospitality Club website you will find this: “Come onboard – join the largest online hospitality exchange organization! You will meet friendly people and find free accommodation when you travel to any corner of the world. There are no obligations (you do not have to host anyone at your home!), membership is free and we would love to have you in our world wide web of friendly people!”
The idea of the Hospitality Club is connecting the travellers with the locals. The aim of this so-called ‘project’ is defined as follows: “by bringing travellers in touch with the people in the place they visit, and by giving “locals” a chance to meet people from other cultures we can increase intercultural understanding and strengthen the peace on our planet.” Hospitality Club works on a couple of levels, but everything starts by creating a profile. The profile should include at least this information: name, full address and a valid email address. All other information is optional. No email addresses are displayed on the site to ensure the privacy and safety of all members and to avoid spam. To contact another member, you can use the message form on the site. All messages are sent through to the email address of the member you are writing to. The most important thing is that if you want to spend a night at someone’s place, you are not obligated to host the same person, or to have hosted a person before. Still, the greater number of shared positive experiences and comments from the people you have met on your profile, the greater are the chances for you to find good accommodation. However, this is not a strict rule; it’s only logical that being a good host makes you a good guest as well.
The Hospitality Club pays attention to possible criminals. On their web page you can find useful information on how to protect yourself from having criminals as guests:
“Every member who contacts you through The Hospitality Club has to give you his/her full name, passport number and the user name at The Hospitality Club. You can store this information in a safe place, or send it to firstname.lastname@example.org where we will store it for you. When your guest arrives, make sure you check the passport to verify the identity information you received. This way the identity will be confirmed without doubt.”
Although today Hospitality Club is a really popular web site with around 328,630 members from 207 countries, it’s mission is to recruit 1,000,000 open-minded members from various world countries. The idea dates back to the postwar period in the 40s, but the key figure for developing the contemporary Hospitality Club was the then 22-year-old Veit from Koblenz, Germany.
“After a long night surfing the net in the university computer labs, he went home on July 11, 2000. Smoking an Indonesian clove cigarette on his bed at 6 o’clock in the morning it hit him – the world was ready for a free, safe, volunteer-based hospitality exchange network that would take full advantage of the Internet”, Hospitality Club’s history reveals.
Couch Surfing – One Couch At a Time
More than 1.600.000 people do couch surfing worldwide. According to the web site’s statistics, there are more than 99.6 % positive experiences using this service. The Couch Surfing service is based on the same principles as the Hospitality Club, but is slightly different.
Couch Surfing is defined as an international non-profit network that connects travellers with locals in over 230 countries and territories around the world. “Our mission as an organization is to create inspiring experiences: cross-cultural encounters that are fun, engaging, and illuminating. These experiences take many forms. Couch Surfing’s initial focus was on hosting and ‘surfing’ (staying with a local as a guest in their home). Alongside these core experiences, we now also facilitate a growing array of activities and events”, Couchsurfing.org states.
Couch Surfers come from 62,000 different cities and speak 1,270 unique languages. Since 2004, 1.25 million successful Couch Surfing stays have been recorded. 1.5 million new friendships have been formed through Couch Surfing, and nearly 90,000 of those are described as being close friendships. Members have reported 3.2 million positive experiences, which is an incredible 99.6 percent of all CS experiences, statistics show.
It is recommended that all Couch Surfing users create a profile, where they can put as much information as they can. According to the organizers there is no need to worry, because six levels of privacy are provided and the profile’s visibility can be controlled. Dani (24) from Belgrade shares her experience using this service for the first time:
“I have couch-surfed only once so far, on the recommendation of my friend, who hosted a lot of people from all over the world as a member. I wanted to join a group of friends on a trip but in a lack of space for sleeping I was forced to look for another suitable alternative, and so together with a friend I decided to take a shot with couch surfing. We wrote a message on Couch Surfing asking for a place to sleep. And so we found a host, and in one word I can say he was great. He showed us the city, explained everything and told us that we can stay as long as we want. He even gave us the key of the flat, and later joined our group of friends and spent the whole day with us. We were really feeling relaxed in the flat, so I can say that he was a real host while he offered us his help and company and not just a bed to sleep. I will surely do it again without any doubt when ever I need it ’cause it’s not just a solution for an arising problem but also a way to meet and get to know cool people”, Dani concludes.
Hospitality Club and Couch Surfing are organisations that share a clear vision and a noble mission. Not only do they help you find a place for a few days, but they also facilitate the process of making friendships and contribute to creating a better world, where people help each other without expecting something in return.