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Is home swapping for the perfect solution for a post-COVID world?

Home swapping is especially popular in rural and coastal areas
Home swapping is especially popular in rural and coastal areas   -   Copyright  Brina Blum / Unsplash

In the past decade, sites like Airbnb have usurped hotels and mainstream rental properties as a holiday accommodation go-to. But in more recent years, a new challenger has risen up in the form of a more affordable, sustainable contender.

Home swapping: the art of exchanging your house or apartment with someone else in your own country or the wider world, so each can profit from a financially viable option when it comes to holiday accommodation.

Think of it like ‘The Holiday’ Christmas film classic with Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet - but we can’t guarantee the festive romance.

This type of holidaying seems to be on the rise too, according to new research from the UK-based Love Home Swap. The company saw a 282 per cent increase last year compared with 2019, followed by a further 73 per cent increase between May and June 2020 too.

The same data showed coastal property requests have accounted for 40 per cent of this figure, as well as an uptake in rural properties stays (30 per cent).

What are the advantages of home swapping?

Since COVID-19 created a new anxiety around shared spaces, home swapping gives travellers peace of mind in their own space.

“Unlike hotels, there will be less people passing through the place you’re staying in,” comments Celia Pronto, managing director of Love Home Swap.

“Around half of the homes on our site are main homeowners, meaning they are further away from tourist hotspots that have a more local feel, away from the crowds."

James Asquith, founder and CEO of Holiday Swap, expands on this further.

“The concept of home swapping was on the rise before COVID, but the pandemic has really compounded it.”

Not just from a health perspective, either. Financially, home swapping is a considerably cheaper option because you’re literally trading places with another household for the same running costs that you foot with every bill, plus a little extra to the platform you’re registered with. In the case of Holiday Swap, that’s less than a euro, per person, per night ($1).

“One of the reasons we’re seeing an increased interest in home swapping is undoubtedly to save money,” explains James. “Economies are struggling more than ever, small businesses, people who work in the services industry especially are going through a tough time.

“The days where you could stick an all-inclusive hotel holiday on a credit card and work overtime to pay it off are gone for a while.If you minimise the biggest cost of travel, which is accommodation at 36 per cent, it can be a huge saving.”

These facts are backed up by the stats, with Love Home Swap claiming that a third of members holiday more than four times a year, saving on average €1,100 on accommodation through the site.

The other main appeal is the ‘live like a local’ mentality, building genuine relationships with the community, which has become such an important part of people’s travel plans.

“People want to create those new connections. With Holiday Swap, it’s like Tinder for travel. You get to know the people whose home you’ll be staying at in advance, they can introduce you to locals. For a lot of people, that’s the best part of travelling.”

Holiday Swap has grown its users by 20 per cent, even during the pandemic disruption last year. James thinks this is because the consumer process behind Holiday Swap is ideal for our screen-based lockdown.

“People have really had the time to think about what they want from their next holiday. As I said, it’s like Tinder,” he laughs, “activity has been down, but matches - and plans for the future - have been up!”