Couchsurfing and Sustainability

The advent of Web 2.0 and low-cost carriers have made it possible for social innovations in virtual hospitality exchange to steadily increase in popularity. Though there are many other hospex online communities (e.g., Globalfreeloaders.com, Bewelcome.org, etc.), Couchsurfing.org remains to be the biggest and most popular. Current membership is over 3 million, and the average weekly number of sign-ups last month was almost 24,000.

Couchsurfing is often considered as a ‘greener,’ more alternative form of tourism—mostly because it is a replacement for hotels and other traditional accommodation options that presumably have worse environmental impacts. It is also praised for promoting more authentic experiences of peoples and places.

In this paper, I would also like to delve into the ways that CS is not sustainable (if any), and therefore ways in which CS can encourage its participants to be sustainable. Because there has been very little written about the sustainability of CS, it would be useful to summarize its current state. Unfortunately, most of the discourse about its sustainability is still in blog form (unorganized opinion) and other small websites.

Research Question: Is Couchsurfing truly sustainable? With its increasing numbers, could Couchsurfing.org become increasingly unsustainable?

Examples of some issues I would like to explore:

  • Sustainable Couch, which is “a movement for engaging CouchSurfers in reducing the negative impacts of tourism on local cultures and the environment.”
  • Couchsurfing.org’s transition from non-profit corporation into a for-profit B-corporation and protests against its transition.
  • CS evades hotel chains, but it does not evade carbon emissions.

Proposed outline
Introduction
Couchsurfing as Alternative Tourism
Couchsurfers, hosts and operators on Sustainability Tourism
Methodology and Analysis
Findings and Recommendations

References:

CouchSurfing – Statistics. (2011, September 28). Couchsurfing.org. Retrieved September 28, 2011,     from http://www.couchsurfing.org/statistics.html

Sustainable Couch. (2011). Sustainablecouch.org. Retrieved September 28, 2011, from http://www.sustainablecouch.org/

One Response to “Couchsurfing and Sustainability”

  1. Janne Liburd says:

    I am afraid that you do not have sufficient, valid literature on the topic to make an academic analysis. I suggest you read Ulrike Gretzel’s 2011 paper on Tourism Intelligent Systems in the latest issue of Annals of Tourism Research and try to refocus your topic based on the extant literature (+see her references) – and the knowledge gaps, which she identifies as well.

    Finally how can you asses if anything is ‘truely sustainable’?

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