The former owner of a busy Whanganui backpackers has started another hospitality venture - but it won't be enough to meet demand.
Rory Smith ran Tamara Riverside Lodge for 26 years. His new business, Smith House, started on August 19 and comprises two self-contained units at street level under his Somme Parade house.
He's not the only person in Whanganui making use of unneeded indoor space by hiring it out. There are 42 peer-to-peer accommodation ventures in the district, Whanganui & Partners visitor industries strategic lead Paul Chaplow said.
The district's three hotels, 16 motels (down from 22 in 2016) and three backpackers were about 80 per cent occupied during the summer months and could not provide beds for all the extra people who come to events.
"It does appear that we have a capacity issue," Chaplow said.
Launching his new venture during a lockdown wasn't ideal, Smith said, but he was sure people would start travelling again.
Smith sold the Tamara backpacker business to Trish Tamarapa in 2019. He bought the house two doors along at 26 Somme Parade, intending to live in it and start a more low-key accommodation business in its lower storey.
The two-storey house was built in 1993 by a car enthusiast. At ground level were a five-car garage and a small apartment. Above was "the best view in Whanganui", Smith said.
Smith has spent the past year managing a lower-storey makeover, helped by builder Jeff Cain and others. The ground floor now has a unit on either side of the garage.
They each have double beds, seating for two, a heat pump, television, a working kitchen and a bathroom. They have secure off-street parking at 1 Ingestre St, and the finishing touches are hand-picked.
"It's like having two babies, but not identical twins," Smith said.
He aimed for quality and said it would make the units easier to clean and maintain, and keep customers happy.
He's planning to get them ranked by New Zealand's official tourism assessor, Qualmark.
The units will be available for short-term rental to professionals at $149 a night. He has three bookings already.
"It's going to turn over a bit of money. Not a massive income, but it will not be bad."
He intends to direct market them to places like Whanganui Collegiate School and Whanganui Courthouse, and offer them on booking.com, Airbnb and Facebook.
Airbnb has opened up a whole range of options for accommodation, and made it easy for people to try it if they had an unused room or house. In 2017, there were just 26 peer-to-peer accommodation options in Whanganui, Chaplow said. There are now 42.
Stephen Lee owns a central-city house rented out for short stays.
The house was quite busy in May and June, but only breaks even at best, he said.
Andrew Daddy runs a popular rural bed-and-breakfast place in Kaitoke Rd. It's occupied two or three nights a week, and makes a part-time income.
He and his wife Penny concentrate on providing "signature" breakfasts.
"I will cook anything they want for breakfast, as long as it's reasonably available in Whanganui. We have great fun with the breakfasts," he said.
There were no standards or regulations for providing that kind of accommodation, he said, but online ratings mattered enormously.
Hosts needed to be flexible, but he had met a lot of wonderful people and made a lot of friends, Daddy said.
Generally there weren't regulations around peer-to-peer renting, Chaplow said, though a national policy framework had been requested.
"If it's safe enough for a family to live in, it should be safe enough for a visitor to come in for a night. There's no call to put it up to commercial standards."
The lack of standards had been a bugbear for motels, Hospitality New Zealand Southern North Island manager Adam Parker said.
"We have fought for years to try and get Airbnb operators regulated like motels are, but it appears that most councils and central government don't have much of an appetite for it," Parker said.
Chaplow said the lack of beds in Whanganui was obvious during this year's Easter Hoop Nation tournament when teams had to find accommodation out of town, .
Whanganui & Partners wants to attract another new-build hotel. The gap in the market should be attractive to a developer.