Hospitality networks are not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination. The most well known is certainly Couchsurfing, which has been around since 2003 and now has over 9 million members. While the largest hospitality network on the planet, it’s certainly not the only one.
Current member? http://www.horizonapp.co/couchsurfing/
Servas International, started by Bob Luitweiler as a peace movement in 1949, is the oldest one and still consists of volunteers in over 100 countries. Its volunteers contribute to keep the network operating, with dues varying by country. Servas means “to serve” in the language Esperanto.
Current member? http://www.horizonapp.co/servas-international/
Hospex.net, not be confused with Hospex.org, was founded in the 1960’s by John Wilcock as the “Traveler’s Directory”. The name was changed to Hospitality Exchange in 1988, and made the jump to online in 2007. Most of their current memberbase live in the United States or Canada. Currenty run by Harold Goldstein.
Pasporta Servo was founded in 1974 for those who speak the language of Esperanto.
Hospex.org, which began in 1991 as the 1st true internet-enabled exchange, has come and gone. Its successor, Hospitality Club (HC), founded by Veit Kuehne from Germany in 2000, is still around and has attracted several hundred thousand members. Another brief entrant, OneNightStay, was integrated with HC in 2004.
Current member? http://www.horizonapp.co/hospitality-club/
BeLodged was founded in 1999 and grew to cover over 37,000 cities and 117 countries by 2008.
BeWelcome began in 2007 by dissatisfied volunteers of the HC. It now consists of over 56,000 members across 150 countries. BW is overseen and funded by BeVolunteer, a non profit in Rennes, France. The entire history of the organization is documented here.
Current member? http://www.horizonapp.co/bewelcome/
Hospitality exchanges also exist in all sorts of niches, with the two most notable ones being WarmShowers (cyclists) and Women Welcome Women World Wide (name is self explantory - focused on women). Other small networks of people exist inside private or secret Facebook groups, with the purpose of exchanging hospitality and culture.
Women Welcome Women World Wide (5W) was founded in 1984 by Frances Alexander, and now has 2200 members in over 70 countries.
WarmShowers began as a simple memberlist of cyclists willing to provide others hospitality (including showers) in 1993 by Terry Zmrhal and Geoff Cashman. The torch was passed to Roger Gravel in 1996. Almost a decade later, Randy Fay turned the list into a database-and-map enabled website in 2005 and eventually assumed the registrar role from Roger when Roger retired in 2009. Currently, the network has grown to amost 50,000 members around the globe.
Of course, there are numerous other networks that have come and gone over the years including Place to Stay, Eldertravellers.org, Welcometraveller.org, and Stay 4 Free. Additionally, those in the travel industry know Tripping began as an interest based hospitality network in 2009 (& raised money in 2011), but has since pivoted to a vacation rental aggregator.
Why have most of these networks gone under before they reached critical mass? That’s the topic of my next post.
Hospitality Network Analysis