Yarmouth Harbour’s new venture into holiday rentals with two Waterlodges generates guaranteed income stream

With the number of people wanting to moor their boats slowing during the winter months, the team at Yarmouth Harbour, based on the beautiful Isle of Wight, sought to research for broader revenue streams. After a consultation period, they decided to take the plunge with two of our Waterlodge Oasis 3 floating apartments, and market for year-round rental on Airbnb. Our Director, Ian Watkins caught up with their Facilities Manager, Vikki Faulkner, about why they chose Waterlodge UK to help them diversify and how their investment has been received by locals and their new customers, since June 2023.

What prompted you to introduce our floating lodges to offer short-stay holiday lets on the water, it’s quite a revolutionary idea for a port authority to do this?

“Yes, this is a new venture for us. The team at Yarmouth Harbour are always looking for different income streams – not just from berthing boats – we currently have some properties and the Wight Link Ferry that comes in and out which is a large portion of our income – and we do not like to be reliant on one source, so are always looking to branch out. Additionally, there is a lack of accommodation in the Yarmouth area, so we wanted to fill that gap and give people the opportunity to stay on the water, without having their own boat,” says Vikki.

How do the commercials compare between having a vessel that you can rent out for on-board stays, as opposed to a berth rental?

Vikki explains, “We base our numbers on 50% occupancy. Since we initiated the project in June 2023, we saw that during the months the lodges were booked, income increased from what it would have been having a boat berthing there.

“We are different to other harbours because you can’t book here, so what turns up, turns up. The Waterlodges provide us with a greater sense of guaranteed income as people pre-book and pre-pay. If we look at the number of nights they were booked compared to previous berths, it is definitely better financially.”

As this is a 12-month product; have the Waterlodges provided extra winter revenue, as you wouldn’t normally get as many bookings that time of year?

Vikki highlights, “Definitely, as the majority of people put their boats to bed for the winter. It’s early days, but so far, The Waterlodges were booked out across Christmas and New Year and we had a lot of last-minute bookings for January – despite the weather being awful – people are still coming to stay.”

Why did you choose Waterlodge UK?

Vikki explains: “We did some research as we wanted the lodges to blend into the surroundings – we weren’t after an ultra-modern look. With Waterlodge UK, we found you offered a lot of scope with changing the outside appearance and interiors – which was a big factor for us, and the Oasis 3 models were ideal. Also, we were looking to form a relationship so that we could work together on the design of the lodges, as well as on future projects. The adaptability you offer was exactly what we were looking for.”

How have you marketed Waterlodge so far?

We only worked with one booking platform, Airbnb, to start with as we didn’t want to be overwhelmed with bookings. Luckily, we were in quite a good position as we weren’t totally reliant on that income coming in for the business. So, we did a soft launch, which has worked out very well and we had a steady stream of bookings through the summer that allowed us to build up host of amazing reviews. We are now looking to list on more platforms,” says Vikki.

She continues, “We also listed our Waterlodges in Harbour Guides and the Yacht Club brochure nearby as well as launching them on our social media. We feature them on our Waterlodge Wednesday and have had really positive feedback from that.  They are also on the Visit Isle of Wight accommodation booking page. Lastly, word of mouth has been a really big thing – lots of people are curious and want to come and look round them not just locals, they really attract attention in a good way.”

What type of customers have you attracted?

What has been great is they’re drawing in not just boating people but a broad spectrum. It’s about giving people an opportunity to have a break on the water with their family, children or friends.”

Vikki highlights, “We have had guests such as three elderly ladies who were attending the Isle of Wight Festival and wanted to retreat back to the peace and quiet of one of the Waterlodges on our marina. We have also had young people whose parents were here on a boat; as well as someone who has Airbnb’s on the Isle of Wight and wanted somewhere to stay that was close by. Over Christmas we had a couple who had family down and needed extra space to stay.”

Do you see this as a potential growth income stream for the marina?

Vikki imparts: “We are hoping to install a couple more lodges if we continue to see the profits. It’s a great opportunity for a different revenue stream, as we have seen residents selling their boats due to costs and have seen a lot of smaller boats disappearing. They are novel but also practical and functional and this is a great way for us to future proof the business.”

It is fantastic to hear how the new venture at Yarmouth Harbour is achieving the results that were hoped for, providing people visiting Yarmouth with an alternative accommodation option on the peaceful marina.

If you are interested in partnering with us, looking for alternative accommodation for your marina or holiday park, please contact us for more information.

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