Homestay is a popular form of hospitality and lodging whereby visitors sleep at the residence of a local of the city to which they are traveling. The length of stay can vary from one night to over a year and can be provided for free, in exchange for monetary compensation, in exchange for a stay at the guest's property either simultaneously or at another time (home exchange), or in exchange for housekeeping or work on the host's property. Homestays are examples of collaborative consumption and sharing. In cases where money is not exchanged in return for lodging, they are examples of a barter economy or gift economy.
The terms of the homestay are generally worked out by the host and guest in advance and can include items such as the type of lodging, length of stay, housekeeping or work required to be performed, curfews, use of utilities and household facilities, food to be provided, and rules related to smoking, drinking, and drugs.
If a homestay is part of travel organized by an organization, the organization typically arranges the homestay. For example, academic institutions typically arrange homestays for their students that study abroad or participate in student exchange programs. Such arrangements typically last for at least one academic term, and scouting organizations arrange homestays for their members that are traveling. Two million students use homestays annually, spending $3 billion on lodging.
Advantages and disadvantages
Hosts may receive monetary compensation and/or housekeeping or work on their property. However, they must be comfortable with others using at least part of their home.
- Savings on lodging costs
- Local perspective and information about the city that is not easily found in guidebooks
- A deeper understanding of the everyday life of the locals
- Opportunities to stay in areas under-served by hotels or hostels
- Opportunities to stay in unique properties such as igloos, cabins, and castles
- Compared to staying in a hotel, a homestay may result in a lower carbon footprint
- In certain cases where students that are studying abroad stay with a family, the host family may play a pseudo-parental role, giving advice and sometimes supervising students' activities. In some homestays, families act as cross-cultural advisers, helping the students understand and adjust to their new culture.
- May require additional planning before travel
- Inconvenience due to last-minute changes or cancellations by either the host or the guest
- Lodging and sleeping surfaces may be less comfortable and/or have less privacy
- Fewer amenities such as cleaning services, compared to hotels or motels
- Guests may be required to adhere to a schedule or follow rules set by a host, which restricts freedom
- Lodging may not be close to tourist attractions
- If the guest and host do not get along, the homestay can make a visit to an otherwise pleasant city unbearable
- In cases where the guest must perform a service for the host, the homestay can deplete the amount of time available for sightseeing
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- "Homestay:Opening a World of Opportunity" (PDF). Australian International Education Conference. October 5, 2004.