This week sees the launch of WhereToSleep.co.uk – the latest in a growing list of ‘space trader’ websites that offer travellers an alternative form of accommodation to the traditional hotel.
The site connects travellers to potential hosts, allowing anyone to rent out their house, apartment, room, or even just a sofa bed in their lounge, to travellers seeking better, cheaper or just a different form of accommodation.
The growth of this ‘space traders’ trend must be taking a slice of the market from traditional hotels, b&bs and cottage rentals. Effectively, sites like WhereToSleep allow anyone, anywhere to become a holiday property landlord.
Indeed, savvy people are putting their places up for rent whenever they’re out of town and using the income to pay for their own travels.
For travellers, the experience can be far more rewarding than a stay in a chain hotel, as well as being cheaper. Of course, the quality of accommodation varies and not everyone is comfortable with the slightly unregulated market such sites provide, but feedback systems for both hosts and guests helps to keep the quality of transactions high.
We’re unlikely to see the death of the hotel quite yet, but as with many other industries including publishing and music, the internet has levelled the playing field. What was once only possible for large companies with big budgets has become viable for the everyday man – and that is no bad thing.
Six hotel-killing websites
1. WhereToSleep.co.uk - new to the market, the site is clean and easy to use with plenty of nice pictures. As a new site, the inventory is not as large as its more established rivals, but is likely to grow with time.
2. CouchSurfing.org – more than just a website, CouchSurfing.org spawned an entire movement of locals offering their couches (and their local knowledge) to travellers for free. Now boasting more than 3 million successful couch surf experiences, this site continues to spread the cult of kindness around the world.
3. SwapMyCityPad.com – concentrating on city accommodation, this site allows you to swap your own flat of house with other like-minding people for a weekend or longer. All you need to do is sign up, post some pictures and search for a swap you like, from Sao Paulo to Sydney.
4. AirBnB.com – deemed “ebay for space” by Time Magazine, this is a more established version of WhereToSleep –and offers rentals in all sorts of accommodation from eco-houses to igloos (as well as normal rooms and apartments). Slick and offering an inventory of 10,714 cities in 178 countries, AirB&B appears to be the market leader.
5. CrashPadder.com – similar to AirB&B but focuses more on rooms within a house or flat meaning you’re more likely to get a local host with your stay (if you want one). Ideal if you’re after a guide but want to go slightly more upmarket than a CouchSurf experience.
6. CampInMyGarden.com – taking the sofa surfer concept one step further, CampInMyGarden allows people to rent out a tent-sized plot on their lawn to anyone who wants it. Spawned by the high demand for sleeping space during events like the Royal Wedding the idea is perfect for budget travellers looking for a cheap place to bed down in cities where no campsites even exist, and is likely to flourish during the London Olympics - where else could you stay in central London for £10 a night?