The New Hospitality: A Global, Community-Centric Movement Driven By Technology

Megan Anderson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist and online editor for Going Down Swinging.

Approx 4 minute reading time

Contrary to expectations of smartphones turning us into robots, technology is making us more open to sharing and community than ever. Recent bursts of welcome messages, aid convoys and social activism in support of refugees suggests a collective online power strong enough to not only filter through the narcissism of my Facebook wall, but to defy government policy by championing humanity and hospitality.

This is even more impressive when you consider it’s the Millennials – the kids who grew up wearing body glitter and tracksuits in public – who are driving this change.

Back when a warm welcome was mandatory

In the time of togas, to be rude to a stranger at your door was to risk offending (and being smited by) the gods. The gods of ancient Greece dressed up as guests just to mess with people, kind of like trick-or-treaters but with better costumes and more wrath.

Being a bad host or guest in antiquity was probably the worst thing you could do, aside from murdering your dad and sleeping with your mum (nice one, Oedipus). Not only were you pissing off the gods, but you were breaking a sacred relationship of trust – guest-friendship, or xenia – that required respect from both sides. If that respect wasn’t there, then hospitality was dead. Cue lightening bolts and a thousand ships.

The rise of sharing culture

Thanks to science, our online culture of social networks, connections and peer-to-peer ratings are making possible a new kind of hospitality that works on the same basic premise of trust. Except we’re backing up this trust with ratings rather than fear of heavenly wrath.

Take peer-to-peer rentals like Airbnb and even ridesharing service Uber, where to be a bad host, driver or guest is to do without the service itself. The currency at stake now isn’t just your credit card, but your online rep.

Whether you dub it the sharing economy or peer economy or collaborative consumption, it’s pretty obvious that technology is making new and incredible forms of global hospitality possible. We look at some of the ways you can share, buy or lend your way into this cultural revolution.

Share your ride

When you consider even a Toyota Corolla will set you back at least $152 a week, car sharing makes sense financially, as well as being nice to the planet and your community.

While ridesharing has been a thing since people had thumbs (you can grab or offer a ride on sites like LifeSocial and CoSeats.com), the concept of peer-to-peer car rental is a new and attractive one, especially if you’re sick of people staring while you lug a washing machine or fridge or Christmas tree onto the tram.

Networks like Car Next Door and DriveMyCar work like Airbnb for vehicles by making use of an already existing resource (cars), powered by peer reviews and comprehensive ID checks. Car owners get some extra cash when off the road, while renters get access to a wider range of cars within their own community, and at lower prices than car hire companies. Everybody wins by sharing, except maybe the car hire companies.

Open up your home and garden

There’s possibly no greater gesture of hospitality than opening up your home to strangers. Refugees Welcome, Germany’s ‘Airbnb for refugees’, has inspired such an enormous response the organisation is unable to cope with the press attention, and similar operations are swiftly opening up throughout the world, as well as right here in Australia.

On a smaller level, networks like Open Shed get you sharing your belongings with those who need it while giving you access to an array of power tools, camping equipment and other useful stuff from within your community.

If you get really savvy about sharing you can travel for free and experience some local hospitality while you’re at it: Couchsurfing and Nightswapping work on a reciprocity system that operates without money passing hands; while WWOOFing and HelpStay let travellers swap skills and volunteer work in exchange for free accommodation and meals across the globe. Niche swaps like Misterbnb connect the global LGBT community through gay-friendly accommodation and hosts.

If you want to keep your home to yourself but don’t mind opening up your backyard, consider joining CampInMyGarden, which links campers with property owners in an alluring blend of budget camping and community hospitality.

Across these travel platforms is the expectation that guests use the service more for the local experience than for fine linens or tiny shampoo bottles in the bathroom.

Share a meal

Food is probably the oldest (and most delicious) form of sharing. For travellers, food is an increasingly coveted way to meet locals while tasting local treats.

Peer-to-peer networks like VizEat, MealSharing and BonAppetour link keen home chefs with guests around the world for dinner parties, picnics and cooking classes. A quick search for ‘Melbourne’ on BonAppetour, for example, pulled up vegan dinners and brunch experiences ranging from $15 to $29.

Meanwhile, MamaBake encourages mums (and dads) from the community to share their culinary talents and cook en masse. Mama Bakers walk away with enough dinners to feed their home for a week, while freeing up time to do more worthwhile things, like drink wine and plan holidays.

And if you really want to work on this country’s hospitality, get some new Australians round for a potluck dinner by signing up with The Welcome Dinner Project, which links newly arrived migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and students with volunteers.

Take Action

Work on your hospitality and make the world a little bit better by getting involved in a peer-to-peer venture in your community. Check out a list of Australian-based ventures in the action button below.

Take some action

Find peer-to-peer ventures in your community

  Collaborate