March 2017

18 APAC / March 2017 , 1702AP34 A Home Away From Home Tina Holland of Homestay Network tells us about the industry in the APAC region and how she strives to ensure client satisfaction. Homestay Network provides accommodation within Australian family homes for International Students coming to study in Australia. Tina Holland tells us more about the firm and how it operates. “Hosts are paid to host students attending private schools, language colleges, Universities and internships across Australia’s major cities. We also manage Study Tour groups and private tours for students or guests wanting to spend time in an Australian family environment. “We place students of all ages, and we have particular pride in placing students under 18 years old and offering guardianship arrangements. We are pleased to celebrate as 2017 marks the 30 year anniversary of Homestay Network.” The firm’s overall missions is to place students with caring Australian host families, respecting cultural values and behaving in a professional and ethical manner. “We strive to attract the best host families in Australia, as they represent Homestay Network,” explains Tina. “We feel confident every time we make a placement that the host is the best possible match for that student. To this end, we offer training and support to our host families and ensure they pass a rigorous on- boarding process. The method includes Working With Children Checks, phone screenings, physical inspections of the hosts home and monitoring of the student placements we offer to those hosts.” Homestay Network is the longest running homestay company in Australia. This is just one of the key attributes that sets it apart from its competitors. “We have an experienced and dedicated team who have a proven history of delivery,” says Tina. “One of the key differences for our business is that we believe we have a ‘high touch’ business, meaning that we connect with our clients on the phone and in person. We don’t rely solely on the technology available today and web presence. Similarly, we don’t just redirect our clients to our website; we take the time to speak to them. As we are in the business of placing people with other people, we need to be certain our hosts are decent, trustworthy and caring. The best way to get to know anyone is to spend time talking to them, and that’s what we do. We often ask ourselves “would I like my child to live there?” and the answer needs to be ‘yes’ every time. “Another key differentiator is that we do re-inspect our hosts every 12 months; we don’t assume that nothing’s changed within a host’s family. Homestay Network physically re-inspect the host’s homes and note any changes so that our students are going to positive environments. We take this opportunity to touch base with the host and make sure they are still enjoying hosting and are still suitable to host and represent Homestay Network. All too often families are changing by way of suffering a loss, a divorce or a hardship of some kind. If this is the case, we ensure our hosts take a break as this is not going to be a happy time to host a student.” A great deal of Homestay’s business comes from South East Asia. Tina elaborates on the industry within the APAC region and the outside influences which affect it. “The global economy impacts our business; we saw hard times when SARS hit back in 2003, Swine Flu in 2009 and the impact of 9/11 did not leave homestay placements untouched in 2001 and following years. Sadly terror threats are on parents minds when they weigh up which country to choose to send their child. “Australia has been on the receiving end of a boom from China over the past few years bringing with it a huge number of international students. 2016 saw the peak of students at 50,000, which was up 23% on 2015. This growth stimulated not only our economy but also greatly aided Australian families with an additional source of income, making a difference to that family, and in turn benefiting an international student. “Australia competes with Canada for many of our inbound Japanese tour group business. In fact, our prices were higher for short-term study tours in the 90’s than they are right now. As homestay is no longer a niche market and there are many operators, we have had to offer price incentives to directly compete with Canada for the Japanese clients. Within the Asia-Pacific, we have had to keep abreast of the issues facing these countries and understand their economic climate and their emerging trends. Students expect to see what they are getting for their dollar as they can with other accommodation options and they vote with their feet.” Tina tells us that both herself and her team regularly travel to different countries in the Asia-Pacific to meet parents and clients and continue to understand their culture and environment, something which helps the firm stay ahead of the curve and be on top of any emerging trends within the sector. “It’s important to know how Australia is perceived and what challenges our customers foresee in sending their children to Australia so that we can address them. Often problems can be as simple as the students expecting not to like the food or wanting high-speed internet. Most concerns can be quickly addressed and any fears allayed.”