Why this man is letting cycling tourists stay at his house for free
Warmshowers.org connects 2-wheeled travellers with like-minded hosts
David Sims had a couple of road-weary cyclists show up at his door the other night. He cooked up some mussels, gave them a hot shower, and they were on their way in the morning.
They are members of an online community, warmshowers.org, that helps cyclists on tour stay with other cyclists.
"The premise is that you'll offer a backyard for camping," said Sims. "Or perhaps a bed or a meal, and a shower so they can wash up."
Sims flipped open a laptop to show off the world-wide community of like-minded cyclists. The website showed just seven host families on P.E.I. Worldwide, the maps showed thousands.
"One of the reasons people will cycle is to reduce carbon footprint," said Sims. "Another one is for their own health. A third one may be economy.... There's enough there to have a bond between the host and the guest."
Warmshowers.org isn't the only game in town. Couchsurfing.com, another website, bills itself as a way for people to "stay with locals and meet travellers."
The Tourism Industry Association of Prince Edward Island is watching stay-for-free online communities with interest.
"It's a new market," said Kevin Mouflier, chief executive officer with TIAPEI. "It's part of what we call soft-adventure tourism and it's one of our priorities in coming years. As long as there's spin-back to professional tourism operators, it's a good thing."
Knocking on the door of a person you've met online entails possible risk.
Warmshowers.org outlines security do's and don'ts, and online reviews of hosts and guests are posted for members to check out.
"Ultimately I guess you're on your own," said Sims. "But on the other hand you're free to decline anyone you don't feel good about. [Cyclists] tend to be pretty nice people."