CouchSurfing - free accommodation for travelers
More than a million people around the world now use communication networks that allow them to share time vacation home for free with other enthusiasts. Projects, based on the concept of free sharing of accommodation and hospitality, several, probably the best known is CouchSurfing.com. Proclaimed objectives of these projects are - besides minimizing travel costs - also make new friends, spreading tolerance and improve intercultural understanding.
CouchSurfing International is a nonprofit organization that was established in 2003 in the U.S. for the purpose of facilitating free accommodation for registered users. The service is free of charge and enables travelers to make contacts with like-minded people anywhere in the world. The first website project was put into operation in early 2003, the current version was launched in July 2006.
Since then, the project involved over 560,000 people from 230 countries of the world. The largest operators of interest recorded in the first half of 2008, when the number of users increased by 30% (in the previous 5 years, enrolled 400,000 people).
The idea was born in the head of the project founder, Casey Fenton after acquiring cheap tickets for a long weekend in Iceland. He realized that it does not want to spend in the hotel as ordinary tourists, like the country near the North Pole to get to know everything. Therefore subpoenaed grand Icelandic students, asking whether they could "occupy" after several nights of their couch. One word and Casey spent a wonderful weekend in Reykjavik at the local. Since then carried this idea a few times. CouchSurfing project was born.
The operators of the website regularly updated statistics, which show that the typical user of this service is an English-speaking person aged between 18 and 29 years (74%). The most "surfers" comes from the United States of America (1/4), where the phenomenon gradually spread to Europe. Currently, half of the users are already located in the old continent, particularly in France, Germany and Great Britain. The Czech Republic in the imaginary country ranking around 30th partitions with less than three thousand registered. Interesting is the location of India at the 11th site. Ranking of cities where you can choose from the largest number of "gauchos" leads Paris, followed by London, Montreal and Berlin.
CouchSurfing is the largest exchange "hospitality" network in the world. In addition to her but there are many others, some of which are specialized (eg "Warm Showers" for cyclists, "Lesbian and Gay Hospitality Exchange International" identified four percent minority). The second largest network, which operates on the same principle as CouchSurfing is "The Hospitality Club." The number of members of this club, which was founded in 2000 in Germany, reaching 390,000 in more than two hundred countries. The club membership primarily European, number of registered Czechs 4600.
How it works?
The system is based on the principle of reciprocity - users have access to information on the basis of their own provision. Each applicant must register on the selected server and give their true identity. Then you can set up your profile and interests, according eg to include some of the newsgroups. Safety is ensured by a system of references and personal guarantors. Another word of advice: "socialize" the only persons who provide maximum personal data or have proven relationships with other members. If a person decides to travel, just contact persons at the selected destination and arrange them conditions (length of stay, etc.). A prerequisite for the successful operation of the principle of sharing is to provide proper shelter to others, but is not a prerequisite.
The basic motivation for the use of this service is to reduce the cost of travel for longer trips (2-4 weeks) in this way costs can be reduced by up to half. Moreover, it is this form of travel in accordance with the principles of sustainable development of tourism and ecotourism, contributes to a better understanding of local communities and cultures. Travelers have the opportunity to establish new relationships and gain new friendships. Through their hosts may feel authentic moments in foreign, even exotic country.