NightSwappers: a new travel tribe focused on ‘real exchanges and real sharing’

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With collaborative consumption coming of age and a growing numbers of travellers seeking ‘authentic’ experiences, could swapping be the new sharing?

From Airbnb to Uber, and Blablacar there seems to be no end to the rise of companies that have embraced so-called sharing economy. Fuelled by technology, some have risen more meteorically than others and are preparing for whopping IPOs. But it’s fair to say that in some cases the ‘sharing’ aspect has become less of a focus. Enter NightSwapping a fast-growing service that claims to put sharing at its very centre.

“Unlike Airbnb our service involves real exchanges and real sharing as the concept involves hosting other members to earn ‘nights’, which allow you to stay at other members’ places,” says Kate Pringle, one of the marketing and communication people that are spearheading the group’s efforts in over 160 countries.

Since launching in January 2014, users have increased 10-fold to 110,000 who are predominantly between the ages of 25 to 35. There are slightly more women using the service, but Pringle says the range and variety of members is growing all the time.

So far, however, the biggest NightSwapping communities are in Spain, France and the UK (membership here has reached 8,000 with over 600 listed accommodations), from Uruguay to Tanzania, New Delhi and Northern Australia, the service is growing.

Pringle is quick to point out that Nightswapping is “quite different” to services like Home Exchange and Love Home Swap in that the homeowner is in the house at the time of the visit. “Users of the service see the main benefit as staying with someone who really wants you in their home,” she says. “They’re not just doing it to earn money; it's a more give and receive concept.”

A growing trend

Services like NightSwapping tap into the growing trend of travellers looking for authentic experiences. Indeed, technology firm Amadeus recently commissioned Future Foundation to conduct a study on future traveller behaviour. The resulting report Future Traveller Tribes 2030 – which is a follow up to the original report completed in 2007 - seeks to understand how “major parallel shifts in consumer demands, technology and society will culminate in new travel attitudes and behaviours”.

Since 2007, the original four tribes have evolved into six which are:

  • Simplicity searchers>
  • Cultural purists
  • Social capital seekers
  • Reward hunters
  • Obligation meeters
  • Ethical travellers.

The tribes are “not mutually exclusive silos”, and it’s clear that ‘nightswappers’ could fit into a number of these six tribes.

Swapping with safety

Another feature of the service is its approach to insurance, which has always been something of an issue. In July 2015, NightSwapping launched an international partnership with worldwide insurance provider Allianz, which, according to Pringle, makes it the only service “to entirely secure the whole homestay accommodation process”.

Some of the features of the insurance package:

  • The insurance service is entirely paid by NightSwapping without any additional fees to our members
  • Members are automatically covered for each confirmed NightSwap and for the entire duration
  • Worldwide coverage which, says Pringle, “AirBnb doesn’t have”. 
  • If a host’s home is damaged, they are reimbursed for the costs
  • Users are ‘rehoused' if the NightSwap falls through or if the accommodation is not as it is presented in the images
  • Repatriation to home country in the case of injury requiring health care

How it works

For every confirmed NightSwap, irrespective of the duration, a reservation fee of £9.90 is incurred. The only other time members might spend money is if they haven’t accumulated sufficient ‘nights’ (through lack of hosting).

In such cases, they can buy ‘nights’ at a cost of anything between £7 and £49 based on a rating from one to seven.  The reservation fee of £9.90 and the money from the purchase of ‘nights’ goes to NightSwapping. There is no exchange of money between members.

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