A New Zealand priest, a Croatian coach and a couple who just wanted to use the shower – these were just a few of the characters who stayed with Alex Ward and Harriet Wolfe when they rented out a room in their Wimbledon home for last year’s Championships.
The couple are one of many who use their prime SW19 location to earn money during the two-week tennis tournament via Airbnb, the platform for people to rent out lodgings such as homes, holiday apartments or hostel rooms.
“From our bedroom window you can see Centre Court and we are two minutes from the start of the queue, so we thought it would be quite popular,” said Mr Ward.
Mr Ward and Ms Wolfe are not the only ones cashing in – the rental company projects that there will be 73% more people staying in Airbnb-booked accommodation in the London boroughs of Merton and Wandsworth during the two weeks of Wimbledon than during last year’s tournament.
The company has plenty of would-be hosts signed up just a stone’s throw from the All England Tennis Club, from an entire three-bedroom home available for £1,000-a-night, to a more modest single bed for £25-a-night.
Last year, 34-year-old Mr Ward’s £90-a-night spare room was booked for most of the tournament – and it is almost fully booked for the upcoming fortnight too.
But whilst Airbnb is known for being used as a place to stay, not everyone who booked Mr Ward’s Wimbledon home actually used the bedroom they had booked.
“People book and then never stay here and just use the shower,” said the regional manager. “The reason they use that is in the Wimbledon queue there are no shower facilities,” he said.
One couple who spent a night in the queue took it in turns to save each other’s place while they showered at Mr Ward’s home, whilst one party-animal returned to the bedroom in between matches for lunch-time naps.
Another of last year’s guests was a Croatian hitting partner, who was coaching a female player inside the top 100 rankings.
“The reason a lot of tennis people like to move into houses is because there’s not many hotels you can actually walk from to the Championships,” said Mr Ward.
“Certainly the coach, he said the previous year he had stayed in a hotel in London which had really stressed him out with the tube and the traffic jams.”
Statistics comparing bookings in the two weeks before Wimbledon to those during the tournament also show a marked interest in the sport, particularly among foreign guests.
French bookings during the tournament are up 108% compared to the two weeks before, and Spanish bookings up 49%.
Meanwhile, Mr Ward and Ms Wolfe are looking forward to welcoming this year’s guests, arriving from everywhere from Slovenia, to Canada, to Australia, and includes a former top 70 professional player. The couple will be using the money to pay for their upcoming wedding this October.