I sent Steve Park from BnBHero, a Homestay matching service and accommodation provider, a few pressing questions about homestay options in Korea.
Homestays provide travelers with a place to crash. In addition, they allow foreigners to experience Korean culture first hand by staying with a local family. Check out the article, Homestays in Korea, to learn more about this incredible travel option! And don’t forget browse www.bnbhero.com for the perfect homestay match!
Lindsey: Why do people use your company services?
Steve: Our slogan is 'Smart, Unique & Local Stays'. This means people, who are looking for Smart consumption (affordable accommodation),uniqueplace and local experience are our primary target customers. Individual travelers, business travelers, students who study in Korea, expats before settling down are our largest guest groups. Approximately 90% of our guests are foreigners.
Lindsey: What things are Korean host families worried about when they welcome foreign tourists into their homes?
Steve: Hosts' biggest worry is security especially for homestay hosts. Even though no crime has been reported so far, hosts prefer to accept guests who identify themselves well when they request reservation. Good self introduction is the most helpful way to get booking acceptance from hosts. To assist both hosts and guests, BnBHero provides various ways of trust building such as link to Social Network Service account, review system, email/phone verification. Using these ways, our users can make reservation agreement based on trust (to see more detail about this, please click 'Trust and Safety' tab in the BnBHero website).
Lindsey: What things are tourists most worried about when they use your service?
Steve: First time users sometimes ask whether they could trust host and how they could make sure the reservation is secured. As a reliable open market place and to make sure safe transactions, BnBhero withholds guest's payment and send it to host 24 hours after check-in time. This system gives enough time for guests to contact us if they can't check-in to booked place as agreed condition. In case of worried situation, BnBHero will assist the guest to find alternative place or to get full refund from withheld payment by us. However, there hasn't been such a case so far.
Lindsey: What are percentages of different nationalities that use you service monthly and yearly?
Steve: Top 10 nationalities using our service are US, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Australia, Thailand, Canada, China and Korea..
Lindsey: Why do you recommend homestay accommodations?
Steve: The benefit of homestay is 'experiencing local's life'. Most of homestay hosts welcome guests and do their best to provide sincere hospitality to travelers. Also, 'Hanok (Korean traditional house) stay' is very interesting homestay experience as well. However, BnBHero offers various types of accommodation as well as homestay. For guests who prefer more privacy, there are many spaces called 'entire place'. If a guest book 'entire place', it means he/she will stay at private space without staying with property owner. Many hosts are listing properties for business, this type of hosts may not stay with guests. So, guests need to make sure which type of accommodation they want to stay when they make a reservation.
Lindsey: What kind things do tourists have to be careful of when they stay at a homestay? (For example: there are many cultural differences between Korean and foreign cultures, like always taking off your shoes or sleeping on an ondol floor.)
Steve: This is a very good question. The biggest cultural difference from many other counties is that most of Koreans take off their shoes when they get into home. As almost all of rooms listed have beds, sleeping on the floor is rare opportunity to experience Ondol system (floor heating system). You may need to expect interesting communication with your host because most of Koreans are not as fluent in English as people in other western or English speaking countries. However, it shouldn't be a big problem if you try to do your best to understand local English ^^ . Other than that, we don't see other major issues.
Lindsey: Do homestay families provide meals or guidance? Is the service purely for accommodations or do host families take tourists around and show them about Korea?
Steve: To be honest, only few homestay hosts provide meals. It is mainly because Korea is quite populated country and restaurants are always in few steps away. It is also hard to find hosts who offer guide service to their guests. We understand that language is big reason of it. BnBHero is now preparing 'market place for experience sharing'. This service is almost same concept as current accommodation booking service but new service will allow people to list activities such as 'neighborhood guide', 'fashion shopping guide', 'food experience', 'historic places tour', 'day photo shooting', 'bicycle riding in Han River' using their experience and knowledge. Once we start 'Activity booking' service, our guests will be able to experience Korea in a new and unique way.
Lindsey: How does your company differ from other companies that offer similar services like Wimdu or Kozaza? Why should people choose your company?
Steve: Foreign companies like Wimdu, Korea is just one of their destination countries and their focus is clearly Seoul only. Korea is our base country and we are confident that we have the best experience and knowledge about Korea. If a guest meets trouble in their accommodation in Korea, we are the best company to assist the guest than any other foreign company. In other aspects, more than 50% of our listed spaces are located outside of Seoul. If any traveler wants to visit other places than Seoul (such as Jeju, Busan, Yeosu, etc), BnBHero has the longest room list. As far as I understand, Kozaza is more focusing on Hanok in Seoul. BnBHero offers various types and more number of spaces for all kind of guest's needs as well as Hanok.
Lindsey lived and worked in Seoul, South Korea for over 5 years. While there, she dabbled in different areas of work and explored the culture. She spent time teaching elementary students, business English to adults and high school students about college preparation. She also studied Korean, wrote blogs and tasted as many foods as she possibly could including fermented skate fish. Over the years, Lindsey developed a love for Korea and the culture. She is keen to share her knowledge of Korea with others and she will always consider Korea a second home.