Our direction during COVID19 times

The big concern (and the reason I left Couchsurfing) for my partner and I is the virus pandemic.We’re an old couple,who really enjoy hosting. Having random people come and stay is challenging now. I’m wondering how a hospitality group can work around this pandemic.

It might be necessary for a while to promote the idea of outside meetups doing fun “outdoorsy” things together. A trip to the beach, a trip to the mountains , a guided city walk etc.

I understand we all want to host each other and stay with each other, but at an organisational level, I wonder if we all need to officially play by the rules of " x number of people are allowed to gather for outdoor events" .

And if during those events , some enjoy each other’s company and want to make private arrangements to host, that’s up to them. I understand, that’s not the ideal, but see rewards for being seen as “socially responsible” , “socially concerned” enough to put aside the hosting emphasis for a while for reasons of safety for our community.That could be turned into a big plus for us if handled well.

I’m worried that if there was even one situation where there was transmission of the virus through official hosting that was linked to Couchers.org, that would be so terrible in the public perception.

I understand the situation varies everywhere. Here in Adelaide , the virus is seemingly eliminated… the same as in some other Australian states, Pacific Islands and New Zealand. But Melbourne is threatening! So even here it isn’t “cut and dried”.

Probably , as the world is in such a state of flux, we will need to self moderate our communities and organise ourselves as appropriate.

I’d like this topic to be one of sharing ideas where we discuss a flexible model of functioning so we can thrive , even during a pandemic.

Before leaving Couchsurfing I wrote to their head of Safety. Florian. (I guess you have heard of him). He agreed that Couchsurfing are on the backfoot regarding the virus and protocols… and agreed they have given no warnings or recommendations about safety in a pandemic… but decided to concentrate on money issues instead. Not a good look for their safety officer response! It would be great if we could learn and benefit from what they have done/haven’t done.
Best wishes Philip (and Hugh)

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Thank you for your great ideas. I completely agree with you that it’s important to stay vigilant and safe during the pandemic, even more so when it comes to hospitality. While we are still a couple of months out from launching the platform, this is something all of us should keep in mind, and you brought up some great points. I am also brainstorming ideas for outdoor events, when the time comes, and I think that’s a good direction… though, our release date will be toward the winter in most populated locations. One thing we’ve seen happening on CS is a lot more e-events or virtual meetups, which I think could be a good way of getting to know each other and maybe even build up to being able to meet in person :slight_smile:

The world is going to be really different on the other side of this pandemic, I agree. That’s why our timing is so special and critical - we can adapt easily to the coming changes, whereas other platforms may struggle to redirect their efforts.

Extremely measured and valid points.

As someone who stays at home with my elderly parents, I’m very much against socialising carelessly during this period, even though the spread of the virus doesn’t seem to be that bad in Singapore. As part of Couchers, I don’t want our platform to be the reason why anyone gets sick or suffers.

It’s true that it will be very tough or near impossible to control what people do across the world. As we’ve seen, cultures are varied and there are always people who emphasise their freedom to get sick over protecting the people around them - in every society. Depending on the situation when we launch, I agree that we should put out advisories on our platform on the best way to interact with other users, while maintaining that magic of meeting new and interesting people. Like em said, video calls could be one way.

We can also explore holding off on building communities in places where the virus is clearly rampant. e.g. US, Brazil, India. From the news, it’s clear that in many of these places, governmental effort in communication is lacking in educating the people on the best practices regarding the virus, and they might not heed well-intentioned advisories from any platform at all. Simply put, prevention is better than jumping into the hot soup. There are many other places in the world where we can focus our efforts on first.

This pandemic really shows how little the CEO and those in charge of running CS care for people.
Their entire business model prior to COVID relied on brand new members with zero references paying to be verified. Now that no one is travelling anywhere or wanting to host strangers who might be carrying the virus their entire business model died overnight.

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The state borders where I live will be closed for another six months. No travellers coming in limits hosting and anyway I found the local CS events and meet-ups weren’t well attended pre-pandemic.
So, putting those two things together makes it a good time to organise a new couch surfing website but not to start it until a vaccine is found.

As far as I know, CS and other platforms don’t currently have a good way of advertising “virtual” events, which seem like a key way of keeping the community active, engaged and excited about the platform. We should make sure we have a way of sharing virtual events on our platform – while still minimizing the risk of spam or unwanted online events.

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I was wondering the last month if there was any couch surfing done these days.
Reading up some topics, it seems it still happening or is happening again.

We have contact with elderly, people working in health “industry”, etc …,
and we live in Belgium (follow the news, we’re not doing that great),
so for us it’s very simple: no visits, no events.
We attended a limited one in open air this summer (5 people, bit spontaneous on the spot), that’s it.

The developers have talked a lot about this recently, so I thought I’d summarize what some of the different ideas floating around are.

The main idea is to add tools that can be used to accommodate hosts and guests during the pandemic. Some possible tools could be…

  • A way for community leaders to disable hosting/surfing in a location based on the local situation
  • More options for hosting status (such as “Can’t host due to government health restrictions”, “Can Host if No Local Restrictions in Place”, etc)
  • An option for surfers/guests to add that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19 (could be a searchable filter as well)
  • Pop ups or editable text that could appear while searching for a couch or while on a community page (these could be edited by moderators in each community)
  • A unique “COVID Information” field that hosts can fill out when listing their couch

What do you think of these ideas? Do you have an additional ones? Are any of these out of the question for you?

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Hi Emily, from afar I see this pandemic is happening on 3 fronts. And that has implications about travel in future.

  1. There are countries such as USA, UK, Brazil, Philippines , India which used a herd immunity/let it rip approach. They are probably the ones most likely to open to tourism as we used to know it. They have used an approach which values the individual rights. Predictably they will want to open to all, at your own risk.

  2. Many continental European countries and now the UK use a “scientific approach” where they open and shut to try to keep hospital inpatient numbers mitigated. They are likely to open and shut accordingly, and mostly within their political unit of the EU. They will be very difficult to predict as shutdowns have been long, recurrent and severe.

  3. Most countries of the West Pacific and South Pacific and SEAsia all adopted a closed border quarantine model. The community health is valued higher than the individual right to move. Mostly in these countries there seems to be a feeling to try to organise travel bubbles, but that’s mostly talk. It probably means for those of us in these countries, our travels are within our own country.
    Trying to have one global direction during this pandemic is like trying to herd cats. By the time you had got tools ready on the website, some of the “cats” (virus) would be running rampant again elsewhere. And some countries change approach.
    It might work better by the volunteers concentrating on opening the website and hosting in one of the geographic/virus approach areas to start with.
    On the international travel websites there is a lot of chest thumping from members saying their country has the best approach. I see that as competitive and non productive. So that’s something to possibly to tool also.

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I think a custom field for COVID/Pandemic related information would be a solution that’s easy to implement and could work across the platform. It could show on profiles, but also on events or hangouts. We could give a bit of highlight to the field with a background shade/a framed border/or just a title with an icon.

As @PhilipandHugh point out, it will be quite impossible to find standards that work for everyone, so I’d be in favour of leaving it up to members which kind of notice they’d want to put. When the field is not specified, we could either not show it or have a very general reminder, like: “Stay safe and communicate well, so there are no misunderstandings”

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As someone who had foolishly planned on CS during March of last year, can attest to the potential benefit of community leaders updating local regulations/laws/situations. Both the host and I were a little confused what was going on as borders were encircling around me!

  • agree w/ @nolo a custom field info/reminder would be great, but who would be tasked to fill this in and ensure accuracy?
  • given the variation in local, provincial/state, and national changes, perhaps it would be beneficial for a quick hit instructions or updates based on evolving situations
  • does not have to be specific to current pandemic, as I’m sure things will change in the future
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