March 2017

20 APAC / March 2017 , Tina has a vested interest as a small business owner in ensuring that her team remains motivated. “Every role we have is needed, and our successes are celebrated and shared,” she says. “Failure also must be seen as an opportunity to review and learn in order to progress and grow. “Many of the staff had some exposure or experience with homestay before coming on board. We have a small team that get along well together; have a sense of humour, which helps at times, and they enjoy the work. The culture is open, transparent and direct, we, in turn, have the same approach with our hosts. Our values are firmly upheld by our staff, to respect cultural differences, value our customers, do what it takes and act with integrity. “I encourage a continuous improvement philosophy; which harks back to my days in Project Management where I had to deliver and was outcome focussed. Our team are always coming up with new suggestions and ideas for improving the speed and efficiency within the office. We value each person on their merit; everyone is different and brings something unique to the table. These qualities benefit our clients. As a business owner, I listen to my staff, incorporate their suggestions and create opportunities for them to succeed. I want my team to want to come to work and feel valued as it reflects in their work and how they deliver service to our clients. “When we are hiring staff, we are looking for someone with an open mind who has enjoys the challenges of working with people. We recently hired someone who came to Australia from Indonesia as an international student and felt this job was calling to her as she had lived in a homestay in her younger years. She has turned out to be an asset as she can empathise with students and has an excellent understanding of the placement process and challenges it can present. “We love working in this industry as my team, and I come in contact with many different cultures. We have had some truly wonderful experiences shared through hosting. Hosts have told us that they have been invited overseas to China, Vietnam, Japan and Korea to attend their former student’s weddings. Often the students have bonded with the hosts, and they are their extended families for years to come. Knowing that we can assist Australian families by bringing in an additional income while also sharing another culture is rewarding for our team.” With regards to the future, Tina foresees growth for Homestay, as well as for the industry as a whole. “Homestay Network started in Sydney, Sydney is always strong for me, and we have a great base of hosts with over 3,000 families. We would like to have more placements in Melbourne and are looking to start in Perth this year. By 2022 we hope to be fully operational in all States of Australia as many of our clients are asking for Homestay Network presence, particularly in Perth and Melbourne. “In recent years accommodation options for students have changed, especially for the students aged over 18. In many cities, there are companies like Urbanest and Iglu that offer student accommodation centrally located and appealing to international students. This style of housing is often, clean, well presented and affordable. This format is competition for homestay families for the over 18 age group. Our selling point is the personal contact that homestay offers students along with the fact that students will be speaking English at all times thus re-enforcing what they are learning each day. There will always be new challenges either domestically or internationally, and we will continue to do what we do best. On the flip side, hosts are also learning that they can advertise their homes or a room on AirBnB. AirBnB has impacted our host pool to a smaller extent as these hosts are then not suitable hosts for Homestay Network. We can only utilise hosts where all the family members (aged over 18) have a Working With Children Check, and if hosts are boarding unknown guests, we cannot be assured of their guest’s suitability to be in the same home as our students, especially those that are under 18 years. “Additionally, global matters and foreign policy dictate where parents send their children to study. Australia is a safe destination for international students, as we have an excellent education system. With Donald Trump as the new President of the United States of America, this may have some impact on the global economy and the various relationships within the Asia-Pacific. We will have to wait and see where alliances are forged and what that means for Australia.” “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.”