Touring performers help boost Norfolk business

Phil Barley and Lisa Benson of Theatre Digs Booker. Picture submitted

Phil Barley and Lisa Benson of Theatre Digs Booker. Picture submitted - Credit: Archant

A Norfolk couple's lucrative business renting out spare rooms to actors and performers has received a pre-Christmas boost.

Phil Barley and Lisa Benson of Theatre Digs Booker – a website matching theatre professionals with cheap places to stay – has seen a 70pc increase in new business from its database of 850 UK homes.

The company's performance has been partly helped by the government's Rent A Room Scheme, where property owners can earn up to £4,250 a year tax-free from renting out a room in their main home.

It comes after survey by More Than home insurance earlier this year reported that one in seven pensioners are considering renting out rooms to make ends meet – with over 50s making up 65pc of Theatre Digs Booker's database.

Mr Barley, who notched up £90,000 of bookings in September, said: 'People haven't seen their wages increase in a long while so this is an easy way of renting out their spare room and making some extra cash from their property - probably the biggest investment they will make in their lifetime.

'We have been blown away with the popularity of the website. I think it's because people see it as a great way to make some money from interesting, temporary lodgers. All guests are required to register so we know if they are members of a theatre company's cast or crew and hosts can decline a booking if it's not convenient for them.'

An actor who spent seven years touring with theatre productions, Mr Barley set up the site in 2010 after struggling to find a good place to stay from the theatre's own list of accommodation.

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Now, he has grown the portfolio of available places to stay ti 850 across the UK.

He added: ''Most of our hosts enjoy the experience as they like meeting people, from engineers to stars of the stage and they are especially pleased to open the door to a famous actor.'

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