Good news: The Holiday Swap iPhone app is now working, somewhat. This new hospitality network offers stays for just $1 per night. The stays may be in a room in someone’s home, or in the entire home. This is a bit different from typical home exchange networks which offer simultaneous swaps. With Holiday Swap you aren’t expected to travel to the home of the person you host. All stays are one-way. For this reason I’ve decided to categorize them as a hospitality network rather than a home exchange network.
When Holiday Swap launched their new app I wrote a brief review. But when I wrote my initial review the app didn’t work for me on the iPhone. And Holiday Swap never responded to my request for help. So I gave up. I returned to the app today and found that they’ve fixed the problem and I can now create an account. I’ve learned some new things now that I’m set up.
Insurance: users must set a deposit requirement from $100 to $300. This deposit will be collected from people who stay in your home, and can be used to offset any damages. It looks like they just return the deposit if no claims are filed, with no fees charged for the service.
Free stays: although it only costs $1 per night for a stay, you can earn free stays with referrals. Members can earn one free stay (presumably for any number of days) for each referral. If you want to sign up, here’s my referral code: IZiomGuV3h. You’ll have to enter it in the app after downloading.
Tinder for hospitality exchange: You look at homes through the Browse screen in the app. Like many dating apps, you swipe right or left on each home displayed to you. If you want more details you can click into the home. Though the detail on homes is limited to number of bedrooms and bathrooms and a brief description. Swiping gives me a “You are not enabled by admin” error. Though I can still move on to the next home. Similarly my attempts to like a home (and presumably contact the owner about staying there) throw the same error. So I guess there are still some major bugs.
Only the first 5 or 6 houses I swiped through had pictures. I’m not surprised by this, when I set up my profile I didn’t add pictures since I didn’t have them handy on my phone. But the validation email suggests: “Here’s an insider tip from us: listings with multiple photos and a description receive exponentially more matches than listings with just a single photo and no description.” It seems they are having a hard time getting people to put up one photo, much less multiple photos.
With no preferences set, I swiped through maybe 20 homes before reaching a “there are no more results” page. I tried changing my preferences to a specific country, state, city and region but none of these gave me any results. There is also a map based search, which shows me 16 pins around the world. They aren’t exactly the same homes I saw in the other view (for instance, a home I noticed in Madagascar didn’t show up on the map). But I can’t be sure if there was overlap because on the map view most homes also had no pictures. Once I went through those 16 there were no more homes displayed to me. Though at least in the map view I could go back into those listings by clicking on the pins.
Holiday Swap claims to have 10,000+ properties in 172 countries. If this is true, they’re not doing a very good job marketing these many home options to me.
There are some cool features on Holiday Swap that make it feel like a potential travel community. There’s an interactive map where users can make public travel tips. And the founders hope that people will make social connections through the app, in addition to finding lodging opportunities.
In theory, you can set your preferences to match with people who live in the type of place you like to visit (large city, beach, desert, tropical) and with the atmosphere you are seeking (quiet, adventurous, party, family). And you can specify a location as well. At this point I don’t think the preferences are working. When I set them they keep clearing out and the spinning wheel just keeps spinning, not yielding any matches. But I like the concept.
Overall I like the innovation from Holiday Swap, changing up the concept of hospitality lodging. But I think they will need to address some issues around trust and also community involvement. They do have reviews of users build in to the app, which should help. But it appears anyone could join the network and never host, enjoying unlimited $1 stays around the world. A community of moochers isn’t going to be very successful. Like Couchsurfing and other similar networks, there needs to be an incentive to host (some couchsurfer hosts want to see evidence that you have hosted before they will consider hosting you). I look forward to seeing how Holiday Swap handles these challenges as they build the network and solve the app bugs.