Featured Guest Post: Swap The World: A travel vision with a difference
Simon St John, Author, Travel Writer & founder of www.SwapNights.com
For the last ten years I have been lucky enough to wander to just about every corner of Australia for the travel guidebooks I write called Beautiful Accommodation. I produce two of the three guidebooks in the series. They cover boutique accommodation of all styles, from houses and villas to eco-retreats, bed and breakfasts, cottages cabins and glamping (glamorous camping experiences)
In these travels I have been so fortunate to meet and make friends with many owners of boutique accommodation and in doing do I discovered a few interesting things that might not at first occur: accommodation owners are operating their businesses seven days a week and wear the cooks hat, the cleaners hat, they are advocates for their region, their environment, guest relations experts and so much more. To be successful at running boutique accommodation you have to be across so many different aspects of the business and it is exhausting (but invigorating and fun) work. But when it comes time for boutique accommodation owners to have a holiday or short break I wondered, where do they go – and where do they stay?
That is when the idea of a website where owners of boutique accommodation could swap a stay with each other either in their own region, country or around the world. The feedback I received over the years was that slipping away for a quick mid-week break when things were a bit quiet not only provided an opportunity for a refreshing break but also the benefits of networking and cross-marketing were considerable. I’ve met many properties who cross refer guests on driving tours of a region and the guests love the fact their hosts can recommend somewhere they themselves have stayed. And then there is the opportunity to swap a stay with a property in other part of your country or around the world for a longer holiday. So the idea of SwapNights.com was born, modelled to some extend on the idea of house-swapping websites for domestic home swapping but tailored to the needs of accommodation owners.
Importantly, I wanted a website where there were not confusing points or credits – just a lovely community of accommodation owners who base their exchanges on a sense of community and mutual exchange. And the other aspect that was important to me was that different styles of accommodation could swap with each other – an apartment owner in London who wants to stay in a Yurt in Devon, a brownstone B&B in New York wanting to head to the Australian outback, a beach house in Spain swapping with a Riad in Morocco. You get the idea!
We like to think that SwapNights.com has an affinity with the principles of Slow Travel movement as well, of encouraging a cross-fertilization of ideas in the boutique accommodation field and another way to bring another avenue of fellowship to the industry. There are a few regional sites but I believe SwapNights.com is a first to truly cover the world and unite all styles of accommodation from a teepee to a hotel and it is such a fun and invigorating travel project for us and we delight in those who join in the journey with us.
One owner said to me recently that it is amazing that there are still fresh ideas and opportunities in travel on the internet out there and I was rather proud to think SwapNights.com was seen in this light. I think it illustrates how wonderful the internet is as a tool to bring people with like interests together and it has certainly revolutionized the travel industry.