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Airbnb: Couch-Surfing with a Safer Edge and a Lucrative Agenda

Airbnb is bringing something new to the couch surfing board game. It encompasses the same exact features as CouchSurfing, the popular website that allows foreign…

Airbnb is bringing something new to the couch surfing board game. It encompasses the same exact features as CouchSurfing, the popular website that allows foreign travelers to find hosts who are willing enough to provide shelter free of charge, but with uniquely added, differing key variables to the plan. These variables make the convenient and cost-effective practice of couch-surfing both more secure and profitable.

One of the most major differences is that hosts can rent their spaces at a cost, thus allowing for more clearly defined incentives on both the part of the host and the guest: hosts have greater reason to keep their rental spaces in good shape and guests take more interest in where they are staying because they are paying. The second distinguishing feature of Airbnb is its advanced secure platform, which sports a Trust & Safety Center that offers up to $50,000 in host protection in the event that vandalism occurs. According to Airbnb, “Hosts in the United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland, and Ireland are currently eligible, but we’re planning to expand the Airbnb Host Guarantee to more countries soon.”

Like Couchsurfing, listing is free on Airbnb with the exception of a 3-percent payment fee when you get a successful booking. Airbnb will send photographers to your space free of charge, translate your listing in up to seven languages, and allow you to make multiple listings with just one account, among other convenient features. So for those of you looking to rake in a bit of extra cash and a few friends in the process, this is certainly a great route. Customer Support is available day and night.

As a traveler, you will benefit from a wide variety of listings, from Moscow to NYC. You have the opportunity to read reviews by previous guests before you book anything. You can email the host directly through Airbnb and since hosts essentially build their reputations on reviews, you will have the opportunity to research before making a decision. Most importantly, all hosts are verified. The amount of time you can stay at a specific place is open since you're of course paying for it and you can even sublet at affordable rates. Plus, booking from anywhere is now possible since it is now available as an iPhone app.

Both the profitable dimension and the built-in insurance plan are unprecedented, though it will be interesting to see how much  those factors really matter in the long run. CouchSurfing, founded in 2003 by Casey Fenton, has consistently managed to increase its listings and site traffic year after year, reaching  more than 3 million profiles in 246 countries and territories even without the lucrative factor Airbnb entails. It is perhaps too soon to tell, but for a 3-year-old start-up business, 100,000 listings in 16,000 cities and 186 countries is a solid start, especially with the added features.

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