Adopt-a-Lion: New Zealand rugby fans offer to host British and Irish free of charge

Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin
An unofficial British & Irish Lions fans page responded to the offer on Facebook saying its members were ‘overwhelmed with the kindness’. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

New Zealanders are opening their homes to British & Irish Lions fans who have been priced out of affordable accommodation during the upcoming tour.

About 20,000 Lions fans are expected to fly to New Zealand in June and July, and many independent travellers are struggling to find affordable accommodation for their trip.

The majority of hotel rooms are sold out in the major cities during the games, and Airbnb accommodation is going for as much as NZ$1,200 a night in the capital, Wellington.

Moved by their plight, rugby fan Adam Gilshnan set up a Facebook page, Adopt a Lions Fan 2017, asking locals to open their homes, gardens and caravans to rugby fans and spoil them with traditional Kiwi hospitality – for free.

So far about 100 New Zealanders have offered free accommodation to Lions fans, with many also offering to pick them up from airports and train stations, take them to the games and “chat rugby non-stop”.

Kiwis are also offering accommodation in towns and cities that won’t be hosting a game, as well as inviting opposing fans to “rugby bbqs”, “banter and beer”, “tours of local breweries” and “homemade lager”.

An informal poll by Gilshnan on Facebook found the activity most respondents were looking forward to during the tour was “meeting and mingling with opposing fans”.

“I really hope friendships will develop out of this, because rugby is a great vehicle for it,” said Gilshnan, who came up with the informal billeting system after making friends with Welsh fans during the 2005 Lions tour of New Zealand, and being hosted by them in Wales later that year and taken to local rugby games.

“We don’t want money to change hands at all, we want visitors to experience the famed Kiwi hospitality, and give Kiwi rugby fans to opportunity to look after their Lions guests.”

Hotel and motel accommodation in Wellington is sold out for the 1 July Test and it’s the same story for the 13 June Test in Dunedin.

Around 90% of rooms are booked in other cities for the Tests, which run from 1 June to 14 July.

An unofficial British Lions fans page responded to Glishnan’s offer on Facebook saying its members were “overwhelmed with the kindness of all these amazing Kiwis”.

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