In a relatively short period of time, home-sharing websites like Airbnb and CouchSurfing have changed the way we view traveling. Instead of shacking up in dorm-like hostels or overpriced hotels, travelers now have the option of a home-away-from-home, in the shape of a furnished condo, treehouse, bedroom, or gently-worn sofa.
These travelers end up staying in locations that can provide an embedded community experience — they live in private homes, furnished by individual city residents, rather than 400-thread-count Egyptian cotton. CouchSurfing, founded in 2004, reports over four million CouchSurfers on their site this year (over 16 million since launch), and Airbnb has had 10 million nights booked since their founding in 2008. The main distinction between the two sites is payment: CouchSurfing is free, and the idea is to stay with a "host." Airbnb's rates vary on the place, but tend to be solo (57 percent of listings are entire places [PDF]) — you are renting the place, not the hosted experience.
CouchSurfing.org was kind enough to share data with us on which U.S. cities have the most "requests" to stay. The top five are large cities — New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston. The requests decline sharply, however, after the first few major cities. New York City, the top city by far at nearly 106,000 requests over the course of a year (note that Brooklyn is listed separately), has nearly double the number as San Francisco, which takes second with just over 55,000. If we take a generous leap with data analysis and presume the rate of requests was constant (which of course, it most likely wasn't), New York City had about 289 requests per day and San Francisco had about 151.
Chart data courtesy of CouchSurfing
We thought, perhaps, that the concentration of CouchSurfing requests in large cities was likely due to more expensive hotel prices in these urban areas. While that's true in some cities, it isn't the case universally. New York City, unsurprisingly, tops both lists — it's the most popular for CouchSurfing and had the most expensive average hotel room last year. Honolulu, Boston, Miami, and Santa Barbara round out the top five most expensive cities for hotel stays. Of that list, only Boston is also in the top five for number of CouchSurfing requests.
Hotel Room Rate (2011)
|New York, NY||$204|
|Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL||$153|
|Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-San Luis, CA||$147|
|New Orleans, LA||$146|
|San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA||$143|
|Panama City, FL||$139|
|Idaho Falls-Pocatello, ID||$138|
|Providence, RI-New Bedford, MA||$136|
|Burlington, VT-Plattsburgh, NY||$131|
Data via Hotel Price Index 2011 [PDF]