Airbnb pig farmers hope for staycation summer success

It’s been billed as the year of the staycation and one Tipperary-based couple is hoping that the second half of 2020 will boost bookings for their Airbnb offering.

Pig farmers Margaret O’Farrell and Alfie McCaffrey of Oldfarm, which is located at Redwood, Lorrha, are among a growing band of rural dwellers who have signed up as Airbnb hosts to supplement their income.

“We have been doing Airbnb since 2013, and have been ‘superhosts’ from the very beginning. Last year, we were honoured to be asked to join the Airbnb community board, helping to raise and build the Airbnb profile in our local communities,” said Margaret, who relocated with her partner, Alfie, to Tipperary from Dublin in 2003.

“Originally, we just let two bedrooms on Airbnb but in 2018 we opened up a third room. So now we have one double room and two twin bedrooms on offer.

As well as offering the traditional ‘bed and breakfast’ style accommodation, with all breakfast ingredients organically produced and/or made here, we also offered guests the option of joining us in the kitchen for dinner.

“Again, dinner almost entirely consisted of produce grown here. We grow our own pork, lamb, chicken and vegetables,” she said.

‘Changed the landscape’

“We have met some wonderful people. People who arrived as strangers have left as friends, and have remained as such. In the past, the majority of our guests have come from north America and Canada and we have had a lot of Germans come visit too. I cannot think of a negative except maybe it does involve a lot of cleaning and ironing,” said Margaret.

The current pandemic has changed the landscape so much. We had been looking forward to an exceptionally busy year, with bookings right through to September. Then at the beginning of March all that business disappeared in a period of 72 hours.

“Like all Airbnb hosts around the country we have had to re-evaluate all that we offer. We have decided to stick with the original reopening date put in place by the Government’s ‘Pathway to Recovery’ which set July 20 as our date to reopen.

“In order to reopen we have had to implement even stricter cleaning schedules. We are leaving 48-hour gaps between guests and introducing a minimum two-night stay. Breakfasts will have to be staggered to ensure guests’ safety. We will not be letting out all three rooms at one time, as we will have to manage ‘social distancing’,” Margaret said.

‘Wait and see’

“The immediate future is looking rather bleak although we have had a few staycation enquiries. A small portion of our guests would be from this country and once they discover us, they come back time and time again.

“We are not in a ‘traditional’ tourist area, so those on staycation are intrigued to discover there is so much to do in the area, especially outdoor activities which are so important in the post-Covid era,” she said.

“We are still evaluating how we can offer the ‘dinner’ option. It is not feasible to sit around the kitchen table but perhaps now that we have our new pizza/clay oven, we can offer an al fresco dining experience. The logistics still have to be worked out,” said Margaret. The couple also run pig rearing and bread making courses which have moved online.

“I think the best advice I can offer anyone thinking of going into Airbnb is to wait and see. We don’t know what is ahead. Life has changed and heaven knows what the future will bring.”