Financial Mail

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-, 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

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