Homes­tay busi­ness seeks lo­cal guests

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

Web-based en­ter­prise lookafterme.co.nz is giv­ing Waikato home­own­ers the op­por­tu­nity to of­fer guests a homely al­ter­na­tive to com­mer­cial accommodation.

Ro­torua-based en­tre­pre­neur Ju­lia Char­ity launched the Homes­tay Net­work, of­fer­ing in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors a real taste of Kiwi hos­pi­tal­ity at a rea­son­able cost, dur­ing the leadup to the Rugby World Cup.

‘‘The home­s­tays are al­ready well tested, par­tic­u­larly in Mata­mata with their Hob­biton Movie Set and Farm Tours,’’ said Ms Char­ity.

‘‘New Zealan­ders have this great rep­u­ta­tion of warm and wel­com­ing hos­pi­tal­ity which has gone down well with tourists but I’d love to see or­di­nary Ki­wis try­ing a homes­tay ex­pe­ri­ence.’’

Hob­biton gen­eral man­ager Rus­sell Alexan­der said the re­lease of the first Lord of the Rings movie saw num­bers through Mata­mata soar from 50,000 a year in 2002 to 367,000 in 2004.

With the launch of The Hob­bit later this year, New Zealan­ders and tourists are ex­pected to take self-drive and or­gan­ised Hob­bit Tours all over the coun­try. Ms Char­ity said: ‘‘ Home­s­tays are a great way to meet real New Zealan­ders and have an au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ence in truly stun­ning lo­ca­tions. It’s only log­i­cal to keep ex­tend­ing that net­work through­out the Waikato, the Bay of Plenty and be­yond.’’

The Look Af­ter Me Vir­tual Ho­tel has more than 100 rooms all around New Zealand and has as­sisted with meet­ing de­mand for accommodation at events such as Art Deco in Napier and the Eller­slie Flower Show in Christchurch.

With up­com­ing events in the Waikato such as Fiel­d­ays in June and the Kara­piro Row­ing Mas­ters in Septem­ber, com­mer­cial accommodation will be tight but this pop-up ho­tel con­cept ap­pears to be work­ing well for both guests and hosts.

Aside from ac­tiv­i­ties such as self-drive Hob­bit tours, cy­clists want­ing to ex­plore the new cy­cle trails and walk­ers of the Te Araroa (the Long Path­way) mean that guests are of­ten look­ing for a to­tally mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘What’s be­com­ing more im­por­tant, par­tic­u­larly for our ma­ture guests, is peace of mind and the qual­ity of con­nec­tions with like-minded peo­ple,’’ said Ms Char­ity.

‘‘I think home­s­tays also of­fer a great al­ter­na­tive for women trav­el­ling by them­selves or a cou­ple es­cap­ing for the week­end.’’

Look Af­ter Me vets all hosts to make sure they are gen­uinely in­ter­ested in pro­vid­ing hos­pi­tal­ity, that they can pro­vide lo­cal in­for­ma­tion and are priced re­al­is­ti­cally.

‘‘There is no obli­ga­tion to pro­vide meals, but hosts are wel­come to do so.’’

Waikato-based hosts Des­ley and Steve Mc­gougan said: ‘‘We’ve been host­ing guests for nine years now and love it. We’re quite ex­cited to be part of this new Homes­tay Net­work. We’re real farm­ing peo­ple and have a real range of vis­i­tors. I can imag­ine sales reps from agri­cul­tural com­pa­nies en­joy­ing stay­ing on a farm, rather than in com­mer­cial accommodation. We’re only half full for the Fiel­d­ays, we’d love to meet a few more Ki­wis.’’

Guests are matched to hosts where there is likely to be an in­stant con­nec­tion through shared in­ter­ests (such as farm­ing, cy­cling, gar­den­ing, walk­ing cui­sine or wine) and they can rate their ex­pe­ri­ence af­ter­wards.

Look Af­ter Me of­fers a ho­tel-at-home ex­pe­ri­ence by pro­vid­ing hosts with an ex­quis­ite range of toi­letries and hand­made choco­lates for guests.

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