Are swimming pool rentals the new business idea to rise from COVID-19

Europe

04 August 2020, 15:13

Private pool rental is a new business venture that seems to have taken off amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Pool owners are hiring out their spots per person to bring in a bit of extra cash this summer.

Anas Ferrndez, the communications director for French pool-rental app Swimmy, recalled a party in Madrid hiring a swimming pool for 35 people at 15 per person – raking in more than 500.

She noted that business has since been booming, with eight times more demand.

“We arrived in Spain last year and there were very few pools,” she said. “This year we have had twenty times more rentals and the general demand has multiplied by four.”

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In fact, the need to take a dip has grown so high that in Madrid the platform ran out of available swimming pools to rent in the second week of June. But little-by-little, the company said an increase in supply has allowed for more pools to be shared during the summer months.

Madrid, Seville and Valencia have too much demand, which Ferrndez said initially came as a surprise, but now is believed to be in part due to limits on beaches.

“In this case, you are in a house and you have privacy that you don’t have in a municipal swimming pool,” she added.

Pool rental prices have skyrocketed

“Last year, the average price was around 12 or 13 per person per day, and this year the average is around 18 and 20 euros per person,” said Ferrndez.

She said that the main reason for this is that municipal swimming pools currently have a 30 per cent capacity limit and fewer hours for use due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“Many community pools have not opened and many owners have put their pool up for rent because they have gone to their second residence,” she added.

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A way to get ahead for homeowners

Doris Arce owns one of the pools advertised on the Swimmy platform in Madrid.

She worked in advertising until the pandemic paralysed her business. Now she handles the maintenance of her swimming pool.

“My pool has added value because it works with solar panels. The water temperature stays at 22 degrees and is at its point at any time,” Arce told Euronews.

Charge 15 per person, and if you can get 10 people, you can earn about 150 per day without deducting the application fee.

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Arce has also implemented a series of strict sanitary measures: “I am aware of COVID-19 and I use Sanitol, bleach, hydroalcoholic gel … there are no towels in the bathroom, but paper is used.”

This comes following recommendations of good practice provided by Swimmy. The recommendations include disinfecting all furniture with which the user has had contact: metal ladders, deck chairs, tables, umbrellas, etc.

“With regard to water, we are calm because it is known that in chlorinated water there are no microorganisms that can live, except we who are splashing around,” Ferrndez said.

Businesses that are constantly evolving

Arce’s new summer rental business is now constantly evolving, and after just a few days, she began to include refreshments such as coffees and ice creams on her list of services.

She said: “I put a fridge next to the barbecue and there they put the meat, the drinks; but of course, it is not a freezer.

“So even if it takes time for me to serve them ice cream, I do it for them.”

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Arce also emphasised her vigilance for disinfecting everything and using gloves and a mask at all times to limit the risk of virus transmission.

She is considering offers for next month and adapting to new restrictions on the number of people who can gather at a time.

Reaching a good number of customers is what interests Arce, who is already thinking of an offer for this month. The possibility of giving away individual passes has been raised if users reach the maximum capacity.

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David Gonzlez is another one of the owners who rents out his swimming pool.

He started this a couple of weeks ago, but despite the large volume of requests, reservations are limited.

“At the moment I have two in 10 days,” he said.

It is 20 kilometres from Barcelona, one of hotspot locations where there have recently been high numbers of coronavirus cases.

For this reason, in many of the petitions, they express their concern about the coronavirus issue “for example because they want to have their parents who are at risk and well, although we try to have everything clean I imagine that there is still fear”.

Regarding other offers, Gonzlez includes the barbecue and towels. He concludes that it is a “way to get money out of a house that you may not use as much as before and that you still have to maintain.”

READ MORE Europe’s tourism industry reels as COVID-19 resurgence hits peak summer season

A very varied user

The pandemic has resulted in the Swimmy app being used for planning all sorts of events, the company told Euronews. These include – and are not limited to – family celebrations, stag parties and alumni meetings.

Isabel Llerena is a regular customer at Doris Acre’s swimming pool, having returned up to three times. She says she prefers the calm and familiar plan of going to a private pool.

Admitting that this plan may be a little more expensive, she said it is still very much worth it.

“There is only you with your family and is total privacy. You do not notice that the owner is in the house,” she said.

“Every time we go, we barbecue.” Llerena is now planning to return for a fourth time.

Meanwhile, Victoria Landn reserved a pool with five other friends for a hen party.

She said: “We were looking for rural houses and as it was complicated we decided to take that.”

It was one of the plans they had prepared for their farewell to each other. They ate and spent the afternoon by the poolside.

The group paid a total of 114 for the afternoon, acknowledging that it was pricier affair than visiting a public pool, but Landn said for privacy and a special occasion, “I would pay for it”.

She added: “Also, the owner of the house had an area with tables. We had an area in case we wanted to play soccer or ping pong. It is practically like renting a rural house.”

United States, France and Spain are the largest markets for pool rentals

The United States provides more than 11 million private swimming pools, while in Europe, the countries with the most pools are France and Spain respectively.

“This is where we are going to run our business,” Ferrndez said.

According to the French Swimming Pool Federation, there are around 2.7 million private pools in the country. In Spain, there are around 1.5 million private pools, while Germany boasts 1 million.

Italy comes behind that with 600,000.

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