In this day and age of automated-self-serve-online-do-it-yourself-web-based-point-and-click, it hardly seems necessary to pay the extra $ to a 3rd party company to find homestay accommodation for myself when planning a trip abroad. Or does it?
This is the question many international students and travelers are asking themselves. We book our own hotels after all – so why NOT homestay?
The short answer in a nutshell is that homestay is not a hotel. It is an unregulated industry. While a hotel is required by law to meet certain minimal standards of cleanliness, safety, and service, homestays have no such mandated oversight.
This means that booking your own room with an unknown family directly is a complete crap shoot – while you may get lucky and land yourself a fabulous accommodation, you may just as likely book yourself in the homestay from hell.
Let’s face it – every family that posts online will try to promote themselves as the best option for you. It’s in their interest after all. But what’s in YOUR best interest?
A placement Agency? Really? Isn’t the homestay placement agency just in it for the money? Why should they really care if I have a great homestay experience or not? Well, let’s just call it the invisible hand of the free market.
Consider: A homestay agency that doesn’t care about the quality of its homestays is no better than a bad homestay family. In fact, they are worse -they are a bad business as well, and a bad business will not stand the test of time. A good homestay company on the other hand will build its reputation, expand its services across cities and districts, export its model, and organically expand as part and parcel of a natural evolution nurtured on sound and ethical business practices.
So an experienced professional homestay company doesn’t find the best possible homestay for you – they find it for them. Only by making you a happy customer will they prevail. And if a family they have chosen turns out to be less than what it should be, you can believe that as the customer, you will always be right. And that comforting assurance when you are far away from home in a foreign land without any other support network is well worth the small premium a long established professional agency will charge you.
Homestay should be more than just a place to lay your head and get some food on the fly. It is a window into another culture. It is an invitation to live, share, and experience a completely foreign lifestyle from the inside.
It is a rare opportunity to learn from, and teach to, others. Arguably, it is the most valuable experience of your entire travel abroad – probably not the kind of thing you want to leave to long-distance intuition or luck.