Traveling alone can be exciting, sometimes terrifying and definitely expensive. It's also on the rise.
But all those strangers traveling alone through the same towns are just missed connections, thought Nicolas Reille, the co-founder of Easynest.
It was when he was traveling frequently by himself and paying for hotel rooms that would have easily housed two people that Reille had an idea: Why not get solo travelers to share hotel rooms and cut down on their costs? But there wasn't a way to connect with people you didn't already know.
Enter Easynest, a site that connects travelers who can then share hotel rooms, company and maybe travel tips.
Travelers create guest profiles on the site, preferably linking them to their other online social profiles (so potential roommates know they’re real people, or at least people with Internet trails), and then advertise where and when they'll be open to sharing a hotel room. Other travelers can then peruse the site for specific locations or simply to see what is available.
With the growth in the number of people traveling by themselves for a variety of reasons, the need for those people to cut down on their costs and the increase in the use of internet sharing sites, it was just a matter of putting it all together to fill this gap.
"All the different elements were there," Reille said.
One of those key elements was the boom in the sharing economy, as it is known. In the past few years, travelers have found themselves with an overwhelming number of online options for hooking up with houses or extra rooms or spots on couches. But Reille believes that Easynest offers something better than Airbnb or CouchSurfing.org.
If it works the way it's supposed to, then Easynest makes it possible to access better accommodations than a couch or shared hostel. Pay just $50 for a $100 hotel room, or splurge and split a $300 suite. It also allows people traveling to find each other, instead of matching up with a local — something Reille believes is more interesting, because you'll both be looking at things with fresh eyes and similar interests.
There are other big differences from Airbnb. Concerns about the site have pointed out that Easynest doesn't oversee communications between people making arrangements and doesn't offer a guarantee or insurance that you won't be robbed, stood up, or worse.
Once two solo travelers find each other on Easynest, they simply share a message and then can communicate offline or any other way they want. Easynest doesn't take payments but suggests that you "pay the host only when you arrive at the hotel once you have checked that everything is in order."
That also means Easynest has no real plan to make money yet. "We can figure that out later," said Reille.
Reille argues that it's fundamentally no less safe or different than couch surfing or Airbnb. He believes that by connecting your Easynest profile to your other internet profiles, you'll "learn about each other before" making arrangements to sleep in the same room.
He also suggests that most hotels are safe, with places to lock up your valuables and security at the door. Hotel management, he said, typically asks for passports and travel documents at check-in, so there would be a record if one Easynester stole from the other.
(But, as more than a few commenters on the Easynest Facebook page pointed out: I can't remember the last time a hotel asked for anything other than an ID.)
The site just launched in May, and Reille concedes that it will likely need "new developments," like a review system and the ability to rank other members, so that it can effectively self-police.
It'll also need more visitors. Right now, there are about 2,000 visitors to the site a day, but most cities don't have hotels to share. Even Reille acknowledges he's rarely used it. He tested out the site in Hong Kong, but already knew the person he was sharing with. And twice he posted in New York and San Francisco but got no takers.
For now, he'll just have to keep flying solo.
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