The English tourism market is being boosted by a unique concept to add 20,000 beds without any impact on the country’s environment or infrastructure.
Based in Hampshire, but operating across the UK and overseas, the new business model uses empty boats already moored in marinas as accommodation to rent out to tourists.
Jason Ludlow, together with his brother Tim, started Beds on Board in Lymington. They now have over 300 boats in the UK and another 700 around the world.
The concept was born following a sailing event in Mallorca. Jason said: “It was summer and Palma was extremely busy and short of accommodation. Yet we were sailing past row after row of empty yachts. I couldn’t believe the scale of the investment just moored there doing nothing. That was when we decided to think how these boats could be transformed from an expensive, vacant and depreciating assets into something with a regular return.
“If we could connect with boat owners to encourage them to rent out cabin and deck space we had a win-win scenario. Owners could get a return on their investment; tourists could spend time staying on a boat moored in a spectacular location; and we might well have an exciting new business.”
Beds on Board uses a peer-to-peer platform on a similar business model as Airbnb. The website www.bedsonboard.com now showcases boats across the world, with the largest distribution in the UK and Europe. It provides owners with the opportunity to rent out their cabin space, with a 5% fee on rental for owners and 10% from the guest.
The boats featured on the site are varied, including super-luxurious yachts in stunning locations, motor cruisers and houseboats. Others sit firmly in the affordable end of the market with prices starting from just £40 per night with quirky options, all offering the chance to experience the locations from a new perspective.
The brothers’ friend Sir Peter Ogden, founder of one of the UK’s largest computer businesses, remains as their majority shareholder and continues to advise at the heart of the business. “Peter’s experience and skills are becoming increasingly relevant to us as we grow. He intrinsically understands the bigger picture,” explains Jason.
And they are aiming for that picture to become very big – with a target of one million beds worldwide.
“We’re already very effective globally, but we’re especially keen to develop in the English tourist market,” explains Jason. “We’re targeting to add 20,000 beds to the market at a time when the staycation is booming and Visit England predicts inbound tourist numbers to leap to 38 million, up from 31m just five years ago.
“Our model helps tourism by selling thousands of beds without building hotels and the infrastructure needed to support them. It doesn’t drive up the price for locals because these are spaces that were never being used.”
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