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Global concept, local practice: Taiwanese experience of CouchSurfing

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Hospitality exchange tourism is a new type of niche tourism, which is highly dependent on the Internet. Through participating in global hospitality exchange networks, such as CouchSurfing, tourists can meet local people who are willing to offer free accommodation, and hosts can also meet people around the world by hosting them. CouchSurfing works as a system of reciprocity, in which hospitality as well as cultures is exchanged between hosts and surfers. Through hospitality sharing and cross-cultural interactions, a global community with diverse cultures is envisaged in CouchSurfing. Although CouchSurfing is global in its scope, it is locally practiced in different ways by different cultures. The meaning of CouchSurfing is negotiated by surfers and hosts who both participate in it, and the reciprocal system of CouchSurfing seems to be more complicated when different cultures are involved. Based on Taiwanese experiences of CouchSurfing, this study introduces a non-western perspective on CouchSurfing and has a dialogue with prior research about CouchSurfing that has tended to focus on western experiences. Qualitative methods, including participatory observation and qualitative interviews, are adopted in this study to explore how CouchSurfing is practiced in non-western society.

Keywords: CouchSurfing; hospitality exchange; new tourism; niche tourism; reciprocal system; reciprocity

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Amsterdam

Publication date: 2012-02-16

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  • Hospitality & Society is an international multidisciplinary social sciences journal focusing upon hospitality and exploring its connections with wider social and cultural processes and structures. The journal welcomes submissions from various disciplines and aims to be an interactive forum expanding frontiers of knowledge and contributing to the literature on hospitality social science. Articles that stimulate debate, discussion and exchange across disciplines are welcomed, as well as review essays or short topical pieces that are provocative and problematic in nature.
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