Enough about AirBnB already! A competing service in France called NightSwapping has a different twist on sharing rooms with strangers, and it is beginning to fire on all cylinders. The company uses a different business model from AirBnB -- it's all about hosting other travelers for free as a way to earn free accommodations all over the world. There's a social aspect, since you "meet" online first and discuss arrangements.
The service taps into a growing trend in the democratization of everything. There's an expectation that customers will be able to exchange "services" (in this case, your sofa or a bedroom in your house) and then enjoy free accommodations when you travel.
There are signs that it is starting to work. The company had roughly 6,000 customers a year ago but now boasts about 90,000, a massive 14X growth (albeit from a small base) in only a year.
One keys to this growth spurt
NightSwapping has hit the social networks pretty hard. They have focused mostly on Facebook, which accounts for 90 percent of their new customer acquisition budget. The ads appear in a feed where people are already thinking about social connections. (This strategy might not work as effectively for a company trying to sell cleaning services, for instance.)
Over the last year, Nightswapping has also ramped up their internal teams. They have doubled their staff by hiring press officers, community managers, NightSwap coaches (those who coordinate the free stays) and building an internal media relations team. They have collaborated with other companies including IDbus (a French coach bus company) Ulule (a crowdfunding platform) and Uber in the French city of Lyon where they are based.
The company has opened local offices in London and Barcelona. The service is now available in 160 countries all over the world. (Even though the service is based in France, its website looks like it could have originated in San Francisco.) They take the concept of global domination seriously, issuing rapid-fire press releases about every month in four languages.
They have some serious competition from AirBnb, CouchSurfing and Home Exchange which all have a much larger customer base. Yet, NightSwapping has a different business model that taps into a growing trend in travel democratization. Keep an eye on this French import.
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