What the Hell is a Homestay?
Here at Global Yodel, we love experiencing a destination like a local when we travel. That’s why we were beyond excited to discover Homestay.com, a site that connects travelers with locals who have a spare room to rent.
To learn more about this unique program, we sat down with Claire Sweeney, Homestay.com marketing manager. Read on to learn what the hell a Homestay is, and how a Homestay host is way better than any hotel concierge.
For someone new to the concept, can you tell us what the hell a Homestay is?
A Homestay is essentially a hosted experience. You’re going to someone’s home, staying in a private room, and paying a fee for the space. What’s different about a Homestay is it’s not just about getting a room and having a bed to sleep in, it’s about having an experience. The host will welcome you and give you the local knowledge of an area that you may not be able to tap into on your own.
What is the biggest misconception people have about Homestays?
There are several. First, people think Homestays are only for students. Historically, that was the case. For decades students traveling to a new country to study could rent a room in a private home. What we’re doing is bringing Homestays to mainstream travel. Why should they just be for students? We believe travelers, businesspeople and families also want to have a more experiential travel experience.
Also, in the past, Homestays were arranged through an offline agency. We’re bringing transparency to the Homestay industry, allowing you to select the host who is most appealing to you.
Finally, some people think that because Homestays are in private homes, they won’t be glamorous or exciting. This is not the case at all. Some of our Homestays are just as stylish as boutique hotels, if not more so! You can see examples on our Not Your Average Homestay Pinterest board.
In your words, how does staying with a local enhance a trip?
When you travel it’s so easy to have a tick list of things to see, but it’s the same list everyone else has. In Paris you see the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysees and then you jump on a plane and go home. But is that really an authentic travel experience?
I want to be able to immerse myself in the places I visit. When you stay with a local, you get to travel beyond the usual tourist trails. It’s not just about monuments and museums, it’s about people and their traditions, customs and languages. When you stay in a local person’s home, you get to experience all of that, but in a very easy and conversational way.
Breakfast is included in our Homestays. It’s not just a practicality, it’s about opening up the conversation between the host and the traveler. We want them to have a conversation about what to see, what to do, and how those experiences reflect what the destination is all about.
A hotel concierge can tell you about the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysees, but not about the local cafe down the street that serves the best coffee and croissants in town. That’s what you’re going to come home and tell your friends about: the cafe, the goats cheese salad, and the long conversation you had with the owner who tells great stories about the local area.
You don’t have to go searching for those experiences when you stay in a Homestay.
Tell us about some of the unique ways people have used Homestays.
Homestays are popular with people who are traveling to an event. We had one guest who was running in the London Marathon and wanted to get a sense of the course before the race. We also have guests who want to learn to cook a region’s specialties with a local expert. Homestays are also popular with people relocating for a job or internship. They need to hit the ground running and get immediate tips on, for example, how to use the public transportation.
Tell us about Homestay hosts. What are they like?
We have homestays in 95 countries. Our hosts come from all backgrounds; they’re singles, couples and families. They’re all drawn to the idea of being a host. Sure it’s a great way to make extra money, but more importantly you have to be open to meeting new people and new experiences. They’re patient and helpful. They’re happy to have a chat about the local area, and they want to get to know their guests as much as the guest wants to know them. Our hosts tell us they talk with guests about everything from cooking to gardening to brain imaging, depending on the guest’s job and hobbies. Homestays are an enriching experience for the host too.
How does Homestay keep travelers safe?
Safety is something we take very seriously. We currently validate email addresses, phone numbers and photos for all our hosts and will soon integrate a trusted third-party verification solution in the platform.
We also encourage travelers and hosts to use our messaging system. We want to make sure both parties feel happy and comfortable. We encourage them to talk about their backgrounds, expectations and facilities. Our hosts and guests usually converse six or seven times before a booking is made. We also recently integrated customer reviews. We know reviews are very important.
Who are you as a traveler?
I love to experience a place like a local. My first trip was to the west coast of France at 16. I lived with a family. I remember eating rabbit for the first time and drinking warm chocolate for breakfast. It was fabulous!
Want to learn more about the Homestay phenomena? Check out our Homestay.com Experience where we sit down with an actual host and guest and learn about their experience.