Chiltern Canal Boat Holidays
UK Couple Uses Lodgify to Launch Canal Boat Holiday Business
Gareth and Corinne Newmans
Two narrow boats, Grand Union Canal, The Chilterns, UK – Chiltern Canal Boat Holidays
After beating cancer, Gareth Newman, a UK businessman was looking for something more enjoyable to do. He quit his job and bought a narrowboat to renovate, combining his love for the water, interior design and mechanics. When his wife, Corinne, was made redundant shortly afterward, the couple decided to launch a canal boat holiday business in April 2021. They used Lodgify to set up a website, advertised on social media and listed their narrow boat on Google maps. Within a few weeks, the boats were fully booked from mid-June to mid-November.
After he recovered from cancer, Newman, a UK businessman wanted to find something more enjoyable and meaningful to do with his life. He decided to combine his love of water, mechanics and interior design and bought a narrow boat to renovate.
Not long after, his wife, Corinne, was made redundant from her 20-year career and because the couple has young children, she decided to join her husband in pursuit of a more flexible lifestyle. One thing led to another, and in April 2021, launched their canal boat holiday business on the Grand Union Canal in the Chilterns, just outside London. By the end of the year they were able to buy a second boat to add to the business.
At first, it was difficult to compete against some of the large boat hire companies and to get visibility for their rental on the internet, so the couple focused on paid ads and social media to raise brand awareness online.
How did they get their first bookings?
They used social media (Facebook and Instagram) and also created a listing on Google Maps to generate their first bookings.
To help manage their bookings, the couple started searching for vacation rental software and found Lodgify. The fact that the website builder was linked to an advanced booking system was a major selling point! Other key features they appreciated about Lodgify included the secure integrated payment options and automated customer emails that they could personalize.
How difficult was it to create their own website?
They loved the Lodgify website builder.
I really enjoyed the process of creating a website. Setting up the rentals was so easy, and I loved how it professionally presented all the info about our rental on the website. It was easy to add my own pages and content and then customize the navigation to provide a simple user experience.
They used Lodgify from when they first launched their business in April 2022. Within months the boats were fully booked from mid-June to mid-November.
We couldn’t have managed it all so easily in our first year without the Lodgify software allowing customers to self-serve up to the point of arrival.
Which other channels do they use to get bookings and traffic?
Facebook generates the most leads to the Canalboat Holiday website, aside from organic traffic on Google. So far they have not needed to use any online travel agencies (OTAs), which means all the bookings are direct!
Which other tools do they use to manage their business?
To make life easier the couple uses a few other tools, including Trello – to keep on top of maintenance and admin tasks, FreeAgent – to manage finances and tax returns, Google Ads – to advertise and raise brand awareness, and MailChimp – to communicate tips, deals and recommendations to potential customers.
The couple’s top tips for running a rental
Their advice for other vacation rental owners and property managers who start out is to carefully consider all the costs involved in running a vacation rental.
Don’t underestimate the time, cost and effort needed to market your rental and to ensure your website is seen by potential guests on Google.
Another tip to other hosts is to be generous and kind to all guests to ensure you get positive reviews, which really helped them to generate business.