Two of the most popular ways to grab local accommodation as you travel are getting a shakeup.
Firstly, the previously non-profit Couchsurfing has decided to accept major funding from investors and has become a “B” (for Benefit) Corporation, with nearly £5m going into the pot from philanthrophic investors Omidyar (of Wikimedia and Kiva) and Benchmark Capital. While reiterating that Couchsurfing will never make its users pay for the service, the official statement isn’t afraid to describe the recent shift as “radical”. Cue protest groups and a lot of disgruntled past volunteers of time and money – but as journalist Vicky Baker (author of the Guardian’s write-up on the story) notes on her blog, Couchsurfing already makes money via credit card processing fees, and the company reaffirms its commitment to “social and environmental responsibility, transparency, fair work conditions, and doing good for the world”. So the question is – exactly how radical is radical? And once the company is fully transparent with its proposals, will it be able to convince its critics that profit doesn’t have to be a dirty word?
Meanwhile, accommodation rental service AirBnB, often touted as Couchsurfing’s chief rival, is branching out. Not content with offering overnight rentals of everything from Conan O’Brien’s sofa to the country of Liechtenstein, it’s now extending bookings beyond the previous maximum of a week, allowing customers to fully sublet premises for months at a time. It’s undoubtedly a smart move – and since many seasoned travellers already promote subletting as the cheapest method for an extended stay, widespread support and demand are sure to be sky-high. But we have to wonder – how much destruction could someone wreak in a month?
Compare and contrast. Some say Couchsurfing is muddying its hands by chasing profits, no matter how it intends to spend them – meanwhile, AirBnB is expanding its business without a hint of financial criticism. But is it even fair to compare a hospitality exchange with a vacation rental service, as this article does in calling CouchSurfing “AirBnB before AirBnB”? Or is this a sign Couchsurfing is increasingly guided by the wrong business principles, as the Hospitality Club seems to believe?
There are no differences between the 12 September, 2011 @ 13:40 revision and the current revision. (Maybe only post meta information was changed.)