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The Sharing Economy and What It Means for Owners of Accommodation

Simon St John, Founder &CEO
Note: if you just want a quick guide to how works click here

Do you own accommodation? It might be an investment property such as a holiday house or apartment you rent short term, a small hotel or bed and breakfast, an Airbnb style or an eco-retreat, safari camp or glamping experience.

Whatever your accommodation style, you are already used to renting it to normal paying guests in the short term vacation or business accommodation market.

But did you know that there is another way to get value from your accommodation? You can use it to stay free when it comes time for you to have a holiday. That is the concept behind - a fresh idea based on the ‘sharing economy’.

So what is the ‘Sharing Economy’?

‘Sharing’ is the new wave transforming economies the world over. Sharing is where people do more than just sell or rent their assets – they also share them with others in return for a benefit. Think car and ride sharing or the 2.2 million bike sharing trips taken each month worldwide.

And by the way, the 'Sharing Economy' is also called ‘Collaborative Consumption’ because the sharing economy centres on collaboration as the basis for consumption between participants.

The rise of the internet has powered the sharing economy and collaborative consumption forward in recent years. No matter where you live, what you have to share or what your goals are, chances are there is a community being developed to bring like-minded people together to share.

Today, the sharing economy is worth US$220 billion-plus, so sharing is well established and widely popular (Source: Guide to Sharing, New American Dream and Shareable).

Sharing is not new: it’s one of the first lessons we learned as kids and thanks to the explosion of the internet and mobile, it has been developing rapidly through the noughties. 

Watch this quick video overview of the Sharing Economy by Virgin's In Focus online magazine and read their series of articles on Understanding The Sharing Economy.

Other resources on the sharing economy:

Who gets involved in sharing?

Sharing communities are most typically made up of peers – like-minded people who have a common interest, goal, asset or skill they want to share. That’s why one of the biggest sharing styles is called a ‘peer-to-peer’ community. The other style is ‘centralised’, where an entity owns the items and shares to its members.

In the case of, the peers are people just like you – owners of accommodation of all styles. They are interested in having fellow accommodation owners from around the world stay in their property and earn SwapNights. They then use their SwapNights to stay free worldwide, wherever they want to go. So, at different times our members are both owners/hosts and guests.

And by the way, in the community, ‘accommodation owner’ means anyone who owns any style of accommodation normally sold to the retail traveller: whether that be a hotel, a holiday house or apartment, a B&B, etc. Our sharing community is not for home-swappers, although that is certainly another example of successful sharing.

What makes for a great sharing community?

Sharing works best in communities of like-minded people who share a common interest or goal. Equally important is the platform that brings them together. Trust, respect for privacy and safety and well-developed community rules are all important features.

Another important feature is to have a style of sharing that suits what is being shared and the nature of the members doing the sharing. This differs for each sharing community.
For our community, sharing works best if members are not tied to each other (synchronous sharing) but free to share with anyone in the community they choose (asynchronous sharing).

So, instead of requiring two members to agree to direct swap with each other (like house-swapping, where you want to stay where my property is located and I have to want to go where yours is located), our community uses a ‘currency’ called ‘SwapNights’. You earn SwapNights from any member who stays at your property. You can use those SwapNights to stay with any other member who accepts your booking, when and wherever you want to go. That way, hard-to-organise direct exchanges are avoided.

We learned what suits our community best from experience because we launched with a direct swap platform back in 2013. However, over time we realised our members had difficulty arranging direct swaps. So we re-launched in 2016 with an asynchronous sharing model (the SwapNights 'currency' system) that brings complete freedom to members to travel where they want to go.

Of course, for other sharing communities, synchronous sharing that brings two parties together to deliver both sides direct exchange of value (like skills sharing, for example) is the way to go. Every sharing community is different. is not just about free accommodation

At its core, is about sharing the privilege to stay free worldwide. But equally important for many members is the sense of fellowship and community they get by sharing with other accommodation owners from around the corner or around the globe. will save you lots of money when you travel, but you’ll find there are other intrinsic rewards, like new connections and experiences and maybe even new friendships.

How Sharing with works

Here’s a summary of how works:

  • You join free (no credit card required);

  • You list your property (also free);

  • A member stays at your property and you earn ‘SwapNights’ (also free);

  • You then use your SwapNights to stay free worldwide, when and wherever you want to go;

  • The guest member pays a small booking fee per night booked that runs the community and delivers a small profit to as the operator of the community. Some owners charge a small amount to recover incidentals like cleaning or linen;

  • You choose when to accept bookings, fitting them in between your normal paid bookings.

For a more complete description of how SwapNights works, read our guide here

What motivates our members to SwapNights? is a great way to get value from unsold nights, quieter seasons and mid-week nights. And you can choose to charge for incidentals like cleaning or linen, so you are not out of pocket for those expenses.

Here are some of the key reasons our members choose to SwapNights:

Stay somewhere different - Many owners who have owned their property for a while and usually holiday in it once a year or more would love to stay somewhere different.

Get new value for those owners who are ‘asset rich but income poor’ - Many accommodation owners are actually saving for their retirement and put everything into their property as a ‘nest egg’ for the future, leaving little for themselves today. The rental they earn from their property covers operating and holding costs with not much left over for them to have their own holiday. provides a way to get new value from their property today and holiday somewhere different for a change.

Travel in your property’s busy season – When your property is booked you cannot use it for your own holiday. Instead, use the SwapNights you have earned (eg: in shoulder and low season) to stay somewhere new - and still earn income from the paid bookings whilst you holiday.

Benefit from different seasons worldwide – When it’s low season for your property it is high season elsewhere in the world. However, if you do not normally have an international clientele in your region, your property occupancy is low at these times. opens your property up to earning value from travellers coming from around the world – perfect for those quieter times in your traditional paid booking calendar.

Gain new insights through networking - New experiences and ideas gained by staying at another property can be a big benefit to your own property.


Sharing is an exciting concept embraced around the world.

Sharing offers the opportunity to utilise assets in a new way. For accommodation owners, accepting paying guests will always be the main focus. But by adding sharing amongst fellow professional accommodation owners worldwide, new value can be released through your property. This new value can be monetary (by way of savings) and also experiential (experience other properties and learn new ideas, network with other owners).


What? is a community of professional owners of accommodation worldwide to share with each other.

Why? Sharing with is a new and rewarding way to get value from your accommodation property.

How? In 10 minutes you can join free (no credit card is required), list free and start earning SwapNights to stay free worldwide.

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