Soccer fans have homestay option
If you are a soccer fan, the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa is a great excuse to do some extensive travelling.
Innovative travel websites, such as iStopOver.com, show you how to have a fully immersed cultural experience as well. The Canada-based e-business is one of many which has seized on the opportunity to offer an alternative to a hotel room during the month-long soccer festival.
The site basically functions like a classified advert. A prospective guest, who pays a 15 per cent service fee upon confirmation of a booking, chooses a city and then browses homes that are available, and details about the location, host and services provided.
'We have all kinds of people booking through our site,' says Anthony Lipschitz, chief operating officer of iStopOver.com, which was founded last year. 'There are large groups, friends travelling together, singles, families, couples and soccer fans in general.'
With 4,000 properties listed in South Africa alone, and more than 13,000 registered guests on its site, iStopOver.com has already tracked thousands of bookings in preparation for the World Cup, which takes place from Friday until July 11 in multiple cities throughout South Africa. Of those, about 100 people from Hong Kong have reserved rooms in homes during the tournament. Lipschitz says: 'We have seen a spike in activity from Asian countries as the event draws closer.'
In addition to being logistically more convenient, with some houses closer to stadiums in game cities, there is a global trend to find alternative accommodation that is more affordable than traditional hotels, he adds. 'People also want a more local experience. The option of having a host who can give you insight into the place you are visiting, as opposed to speaking to a concierge at a hotel, is very attractive to people.'
Booking a room in someone's home isn't only a boon for the traveller but also for the host.
'We have been absolutely amazed by the response we've received from hosts in South Africa for the World Cup,' Lipschitz says. 'The hosts are extremely excited about the prospect of showing off their beautiful country, providing a safe environment and being able to make some extra money.'
In addition to providing a room, some hosts also offer to provide additional services such as pick-up and drop-off at the airport, laundry, meals and guided tours.
However, if the anonymity of a hotel room is still a preference, there are still rooms available throughout South Africa, says Sabina Chan, corporate communication manager for Travel Expert.
Travel Expert, which has 40 branches in Hong Kong, has not offered mass-packaged deals for the World Cup, but can create tailor-made flight and hotel packages for clients. While there is still availability, it depends on which hotel guests would like to stay in and which kind of room they prefer, Chan says.
'The closer to the World Cup we get, then the harder it will be to get a room,' she adds.
The action starts on Friday when hosts South Africa take on Mexico.