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A homestay in Vietnam
Tibetan Argali Homestay, Tsokar, Ladakh

Homestay (also home stay and home-stay) is a form of hospitality and lodging whereby visitors share a residence with a local of the area to which they are traveling. The length of stay can vary from one night to over a year and can be provided for free (gift economy), in exchange for monetary compensation, in exchange for a stay at the guest's property either simultaneously or at another time (home exchange), or in exchange for housekeeping or work on the host's property (barter economy). Homestays are examples of collaborative consumption and the sharing economy.[1]


In 1949, Bob Luitweiler founded Servas International as a volunteer-run international nonprofit organization advocating interracial and international peace.[1]

In 1965, John Wilcock set up the Traveler's Directory as a listing of his friends willing to host each other when traveling.[2] In 1988, Joy Lily rescued the organization from imminent shutdown, forming Hospitality Exchange.

In 1966, psychologist Rubén Feldman González created Programo Pasporto for Esperanto speakers in Argentina. In 1974, with the help of Jeanne-Marie Cash, it became Pasporta Servo and published its first membership directory, which listed 40 hosts.

In 1971, Sue Coppard founded WWOOF ("Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms"), a network in which food, lodging, and education is provided to guests in exchange for housekeeping and farmworker services.

In 1977, Presbyterian minister Wayne Smith and U.S. President Jimmy Carter established Friendship Force International, with the mission of improving intercultural relations, cultural diplomacy, friendship, and intercultural competence via organized trips involving homestays.

In 1992, was launched online; it later was folded into Hospitality Club,[3] which was created in 2000 by Veit Kühne.

In 1993, the database of Warm Showers, aimed at providing hospitality for touring cyclists, was created by Terry Zmrhal and Geoff Cashmen. In 2005, it was launched as a website by Randy Fay.

In 2003, Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust, a non-profit organization based in Ladakh, India, pioneered conservation-linked homestays where people trekking in the mountains stay in village homes instead of camping. This brings much-needed additional income to villagers, helping them offset livestock loss to snow leopards.

In 2004, Casey Fenton founded CouchSurfing, which offers free accommodation. In 2011, Couchsurfing, previously a non-profit, was turned into a for-profit corporation.[4][5] Beginning in March 2020, the website charges users a membership fee.

In 2007, the non-profit democratic hospitality network BeWelcome was founded by former Hospitality Club volunteers.[6][7]

In 2008, Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk founded Airbnb, where hosts receive monetary payment from guests, paid online in advance, and Airbnb receives commissions from each transaction.[8][9][10]

In 2014, Trustroots was founded by Kasper Souren and Mikael Korpela in Berlin, Germany.[11][better source needed]

Overview of services[edit]

The terms of a homestay are generally worked out by the host and guest in advance and can include items such as the type of lodging, length of stay, housekeeping or work required to be performed, curfews, use of utilities and household facilities, food to be provided, and rules related to smoking, drinking, drugs, and guests.

Homestays offer several advantages, such as exposure to everyday life in another location, the opportunity to live a local's life and experience local culture and traditions, opportunities for cultural diplomacy, friendship, intercultural competence, and foreign language practice, local advice, and a lower carbon footprint compared to other types of lodging; however, they may have restrictions, such as curfews and work requirements, and may not have the same level of comfort, amenities, and privacy as other types of lodging.[12][13][14][15][16][17][18]

A family that hosts a non-family member is a host family. Hosts can also be involved in au pair programs, in which a long-term guest stays with a family who provides accommodation in return for child care assistance and light household duties. Au pairs are treated as part of the family and participate in their day-to-day family routines. Homestays can also be arranged by academic institutions for students studying abroad or participating in student exchange programs.[19] Independent travelers typically arrange homestays via social networking services.[17]

Category Non-profit Unknown For-profit
Hosts do not expect to receive payment BeWelcome, Pasporta Servo, Servas International, Trustroots, Warm Showers, Welcome To My Garden Hospitality Club CouchSurfing
Hosts receive farm work / chores WWOOF Helpx Workaway
Hosts receive monetary payment 9flats, Airbnb, GuestReady

Hospitality exchange services[edit]

Services where hosts do not receive payments are called hospitality exchange services (HospEx).[20][21][22] Hospitality exchange services are basically social network services for the arrangement of accommodation during travel.[23] The relationships on hospitality exchange services are shaped by altruism.[24][25] The conversion of the biggest of hospitality exchange service, CouchSurfing, to a for-profit corporation in 2011 was objected to by many of its members.[26] This was an instance of commodification.[27] CouchSurfing had previously been financed by donations and built using volunteer work.[26][28] Non-profit hospitality exchange services offer trustworthy teams of scientists access to their anonymized data for publication of insights to the benefit of humanity. Before becoming for-profit, CouchSurfing offered four research teams access to its social networking data.[29][30][31][32] In 2015, non-profit hospitality exchange services Bewelcome and Warm Showers also provided their data for public research.[33]

HospEx platforms are related to the cyber-utopianism on the Web in its beginnings and to utopia in general.[27][34] The biggest HospEx platform in 2012, "CouchSurfing appears to fulfil the original utopian promise of the Internet to unite strangers across geographical and cultural divides and to form a global community"[35] CouchSurfing used utopian rhetoric of "better world," "sharing cultures," and of much better access to global flows and networks of all sorts.[36] It was featured as a means to achieve a cosmopolitan utopia.[37] Commodification of CouchSurfing terminated "the existence of a project run as a flourishing commons, a cyber-utopian dream come true; an example of genuine exchange outside and free from the dominant logic of capital, a space highlighting cultural instead of monetary values, understanding instead of commerce. This space still exists, but instead of outside, now within the market."[27]

The divergence between the for-profit and non-profit versions of hospitality exchange has drawn greater attention.[38][39] After CouchSurfing became a for-profit corporation in 2011, some members urged others to join BeWelcome.[40] Many so-called "CS ambassadors," who had become volunteers within CouchSurfing left to BeWelcome and other non-profit platforms because of the change in legal status and insufficient management transparency.[41]

Hospitality Club was an early hospitality exchange platform. In 2015, CouchSurfing is the largest,[7] for profit C Corporation hospitality exchange platform. Warm Showers is a platform for cyclists, while Servas International and Pasporta Servo are platforms for Esperanto speakers.


BeWelcome (BW) is a non-profit, open-source hospitality exchange service accessible via the BeWelcome website or Android app. The platform is a gift economy; hosts are not allowed to charge for lodging. BeWelcome is operated by BeVolunteer, a nonprofit organization organized as a voluntary association registered in Rennes, Brittany, France, which is composed solely of volunteers. Membership in BeWelcome is motivated by the absence of for-profit pressure, democratic decision making, and a strict privacy policy.[42][33] The site had 180,000 users in 2021, across 216 countries.[43][44]

BeWelcome was formed by members of Hospitality Club who had had a disagreement with its founder.[45][46][47]


Couchsurfing is a hospitality exchange service, where guests do not pay for homestays. Members in some developed countries pay a monthly subscription.[48]

Trustroots[edit] is a non-profit hospitality exchange service featuring “circles” for hitchhikers, cyclists, buskers, train hoppers, vegans and vegetarians, climbers and others.[citation needed][49][50] The platform is a gift economy — hosts are not supposed to charge for lodging.[51][better source needed] In 2020, Trustroots had 44,000 members, from 220 countries.[52] [53] Trustroots was founded by Kasper Souren and Mikael Korpela in 2014 in Berlin, Germany.[11]

Warm Showers[edit]

Warm Showers is a non-profit hospex platform for travelling cyclists.


Innclusive, 9flats, Airbnb and GuestReady are listed as platforms for purchasable homestay.[54] The number of paid homestay hosts on the Chinese mainland reached a total of 400,000 by the end of 2019.[55]

Homestay on farms[edit]

Farm stays are a type of a homestay, in which the visitor stays on a working farm. WWOOF, Helpx and Workaway are notable platforms for homestay in exchange for work.[56]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]

  • Media related to Homestays at Wikimedia Commons