South Africans join global home exchange trend
Exchange or rent accommodation from private property owners across the globe? Joan Muller sees if it’s a good idea
W hat would tickle your fancy more: a stay in a quaint windmill overlooking a pristine stretch of beach on the tiny Greek island of Tinos or a commercial hotel in the heart of Corfu frequented by the mass tourist market?
If the windmill is more your thing, you are part of a growing international community of tourists in search of nontraditional, authentic travel experiences.
The trend is driving huge growth in mobile platforms that allow people to exchange or rent accommodation from private property owners across the globe. The premise is that the so-called sharing economy, also known as collaborative consumption, allows individuals to connect with each other in any part of the planet to rent or borrow — instead of own — goods and services.
Hospitality sites Airbnb and Home- Exchange.com, both based on the sharing economy approach, are widely regarded as two of the US’s fastest-growing online companies. Airbnb was founded by Harvard computer science graduate Nathan Blecharczyk and fine arts and design graduates Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky less than five years ago. But the site already boasts more than 1m accommodation listings across 34 000 cities and 190 countries. You can book accommodation online or from a mobile phone for any period of time, whether it is for one night or a month, at any price point. The company prides itself on providing “unique” places to stay, with more than 3 000 castles, 2 000 treehouses, 900 islands, 400 lighthouses and 100 yurts listed on the site — at affordable prices.
For instance, a treehouse for two in Santillan, Spain will set you back only R970/night; a stay on a houseboat in Amsterdam starts at R1 727/night; and you can rent a traditional French chateau near Burgundy for R1 668/night. It’s no wonder Airbnb already has its fair share of SA groupies — both as guests and hosts. In fact, more than 1 000 SA listings are available on Airbnb, ranging from a luxury beachfront apartment on the swanky Atlantic Seaboard’s Llandudno to a room in a modest middle-class home in Boksburg.
Airbnb allows hosts and guests to connect