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Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Is home exchange the new stay-cation?

If the ‘stay-cation’ was the holiday phenomenon of 2009, could 2010 be the year of the home exchange?

Millions of Britons chose to spend their holidays at home last year as the economic recession took hold, and with confidence still not fully restored, would-be travellers are continuing to look for ways to keep their holiday costs down.

One creative option is a home exchange: ‘swapping’ your property with that of another homeowner elsewhere in the world - cutting the cost of accommodation almost to zero in the process.

“Last year seemed to be all about saving money by staying at home, while this year there’s a greater consumer willingness to travel but still an emphasis on affordability,” commented Dianne Stewart of global home exchange site Homes-Club International (www.homes-club.com).

“A home exchange is the perfect solution - providing travellers with potential access to a range of accommodation across the world while helping them to save money too.”

A glance at a leading online travel website shows just how significant these savings could be, regardless of destination. A week-long stay from 24 July in a centrally-located three-star hotel would cost a family of four £973 in Bath and £1,035 in Geneva.

Further afield, the same seven nights would cost £830 in Perth (Australia), £607 in Cape Town and £1,030 in Manhattan, New York.

“Home exchange can also provide a more comfortable experience for families - a private house or apartment is generally more spacious and will have more home comforts than a hotel room or suite,” added Ms Stewart.

The home exchange concept started in the 1950s, largely in the USA at first, then spreading across the world as demand for international travel increased and levels of home ownership grew. Although still a relatively small part of the overall travel market, it is growing quickly, partly in response to the global economic downturn.

Home exchange typically works on a membership scheme basis, with annual membership of Homes-Club International currently priced at just £25. After joining, members are free to browse the site to identify properties in their chosen destination and make direct contact with the owners to negotiate a property swap. If second homes are involved members can use each others’ properties at different times and negotiate over length of stay.

To ensure privacy and security, full property details can be viewed only within the password-protected members’ area of the site. Homes-Club International membership is open to anyone with a connection with independent schools anywhere in the world - past and present parents, former pupils, staff and governors.

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