Homestay business seeks local guests
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.