Picture this: a young high school teacher, tapping on a typewriter in his New York City apartment. He is compiling a list of fellow teachers who have expressed interest in exchanging their homes during the coming summer vacation. Copies of this list will be mailed to all the participants, who will then contact each other to arrange home exchanges in New York and adjoining states. Word spreads quickly amongst the educators and soon the lists become booklets that gain more and more weight every spring.
David Ostroff was the teacher and 1953 the year he put his concept into practice. Like many people, he had already enjoyed exchanging his home with colleagues and relatives during various holiday periods. He was aware that home exchanging had been a long-practiced social activity, quite popular as far back as the middle ages!
In 1960 David formalised his enterprise, establishing “Vacation Exchange Club Inc.”, which by then had extended its domain to include members - primarily teachers - throughout North America, Europe and United Kingdom.
Unaware of David’s service, Jan Ryder was now offering a similar one in the UK, primarily to members in the armed forces (her husband was an RAF officer). Within a short time, David and Jan’s paths crossed and they elected to collaborate by pooling their resources, thus laying the foundation for the world-renowned international organisation that we know today as “HomeLink International Associates”.
The ’60s and ’70s saw David and Jan’s formal network grow, with official representatives in other countries setting up offices to promote the service and provide registration facilities worldwide. “Directory Group Association” was the adopted name, in reference to the thick directories now published, replacing the modest booklets of earlier years.
By 1980 the group had expanded further, opening offices in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United States.
During the next decade DGA welcomed newcomers, as well as replacements for some of the originals. Representatives emerged in Brazil, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa and Yugoslavia. Quick to follow were Estonia, Russia and Turkey, with plans to add Nepal and Slovenia. To reflect this astounding expansion and a truly International network, the name of the group was changed in the late 90’s to “HomeLink International“, the name already adopted by our UK office.
The 1990s also saw the growth in popularity of the internet. And with the internet came perhaps the most dramatic stage of our evolution in terms of format and technology.
Listings could now be posted online, with photos in full colour; members could employ a host of handy tools for quick searching, correspondence and arranging exchanges. Today, of course, there is virtually no limit to the exciting features that can be added to increase our members’ enjoyment in making home swaps everywhere.
Yes, times have changed – from typewriters to computers, black and white booklets to quality full colour publications, to multi-national websites and from post to email. In May 2003, our Annual General Meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark featured a milestone celebration, as we marked the Golden Jubilee of HomeLink International. At our AGM in June 2013 in San Vittore di Cingoli Italy a special celebration marked the Diamond Jubilee of HomeLink International.
Now 2023 brings us to our Platinum Jubilee celebration - a particularly poignant anniversary marking our remarkable survival and recovery from the challenges and threats posed by the Covid pandemic. Like many agencies and organizations within the global tourism and travel industry, HomeLink International has had to rely on adaptive resilience and confident armour against such calamity.
For the past three years we have “gone the extra mile” generously providing both current and past members, as well as newcomers, with creative options as compensation for lost travel opportunities and cancelled vacations. The coming years will likely continue to demand our very best in creativity and flexibility while riding out more “perfect storms”. Meanwhile, let us all look forward to the wonders and joys that the horizons promise.
What changes will the next 70 years bring? New ideas, new technology no doubt, but one thing we will strive to maintain: HomeLink International – “Number 1 in Home Exchange”
Footnote: Sadly David Ostroff died in February, 2000 without witnessing fully the blossoming of the seed he had sown all those years ago. This short history of HomeLink is a tribute to the wonderful foundation he laid. David’s loving wife, Mary, retired in Albuquerque, New Mexico USA, and Jan Ryder in Sun City, Arizona.