FEATURE: We're a city of hoteliers - on Airbnb

Kicking back in the hot tub with a glass of wine, you could be forgiven for thinking you'd checked into a peaceful spa retreat.

Thursday, 30th June 2016, 8:55 am
Updated Thursday, 30th June 2016, 9:57 am
Gail & Woody on desk - AirBnB Sheffield host

The large garden, with beautiful decking and manicured lawns, is a hidden oasis - in the heart of Bradway.

And all this could be yours, for as little as £33 a night.

Bronwen - AirBnB Sheffield host

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“We’ve been hosts on Airbnb for nearly four months,” says Gail Wyman, who, along with husband Chris, rents out the guest bedroom of their Sheffield home on the alternative accommodation website, which currently features 1.5 million listings in 191 countries around the world.

“We’re amazed at how busy we’ve been in that time, hosting a dozen guests over around 40 nights.”

And Gail says the experience has brought some truly interesting people into their lives.

“We’re enjoying it so much,” she confirms.

Gail & Woody on desk - AirBnB Sheffield host

“We’ve had two couples from Canada, a film producer in town to pitch a film at Sheffield DocFest, lots of business people, plus lots of tourists.

“It’s wonderful meeting so many different people and hearing about their different lives.

“Our guest room is a private snug, off the kitchen, with it’s own en-suite, so we decided to make use of it.” Airbnb launched in 2008, offering people the opportunity to put entire homes, apartments or guest rooms up for rent, as an alternative to pricier hotels. The site quickly became a hit with people wanting to pay less for travel accommodation, as well as those interest in earning a secondary income as hosts.

Gail and Chris used the site as guests before they thought about hosting themselves, and they even met in a rather Airbnb manner, when American-born Gail was asked by mutual friends to put a roof over Chris’ head when he was visiting her hometown of Chicago for a couple of days.

Sarah Blackwell - AirBnB Sheffield host

“Thank goodness I agreed!” laughs Gail who moved to Sheffield to live with Chris a year later.

As well as offering their guests a place to lay their heads, Gail and Chris do their best to make them feel at home, recommending local eateries, providing information on bicycle hire, train schedules, walking maps and, of course, offering guests the chance to relax in the hot tub in their idyllic garden.

After just four months, their efforts have earned the duo the coveted title of ‘Superhost’

“A Superhost is a stamp of approval from AirBnB, which you’re awarded based on a number of criteria - including responding to requests quickly and achieving incredibly high customer ratings,” says Gail, who works from home as a graphic designer.

Bronwen - AirBnB Sheffield host

“Amazingly, we learned there are 147 other Superhosts in Sheffield already, a great offering for our city.”

Sarah Blackwell, of Sharrowvale, has been an Airbnb host for two years and says she has been overwhelmed by business.

“My son Airbnb’d around Thailand for a while and it was he who suggested I start hosting,” says Sarah, aged 50.

“I’ve had visiting lecturers and academics comes to stay, people visiting family, or attending events like Tramlines. The more events Sheffield puts on, the better for me!

“I’ve hosted people from America, South America, Latvia, Romania, Germany, Spain and Italy.

“It’s really good fun and, as my own day job running a kindergarten is quite stressful, I enjoy the simple pleasantries of day-to-day hosting duties.”

Gail & Woody on desk - AirBnB Sheffield host

Bronwen Stone, a property developer from Nethergreen, began hosting seven months ago after first using the service last summer in Barcelona.

“We had a great time and we own a little courtyard of buildings, so - when we got back - we decided to convert them and turn them into Airbnb facilities,” she says.

“We’ve hosted 55 people so far, ranging from a one night stay, to a month and it’s been superb for us. We can offer our guests their own bathroom, kitchen and living space and we’ve had a real mixture of people to stay. In the past week we’ve had a father and son who came from Norwich to cycle in the Peak District, we’ve hosted a 40th birthday party and had a family touring from Singapore. Previously we’ve had actors to stay from the Lyceum and the Crucible too which was fun.

“Sheffield seems to be a real draw for people; a nice blend of city and countryside. And we try to go the extra mile, making homemade bread for our guests and we have chickens laying fresh eggs for breakfast. After all, Sheffield isn’t your regular holiday destination so I think it’s good to go above and beyond to make the experience special. That’s what Airbnb is really all about.”

Sarah Blackwell - AirBnB Sheffield host