SAINT-FELIX-DE-KINGSEY, Que.—When Nathalie Gagnon and her partner bought a closed-down inn in Quebec last year, they had no intention of reopening it under the traditional model.
Instead, the couple decided to list the entire 17-bedroom, eight-bathroom hotel —complete with pool, sauna, kitchen, game room and hot tub — online on a short-term rental website.
Gagnon and her husband already owned a smaller property they rented out on a home and cottage rental website, and decided the concept might work for their “Au Domaine William Wentworth” inn.
“Traditional doesn’t work as well right now,” Gagnon said in a recent interview in the establishment, which borders a river in Saint-Felix-de-Kingsey, about halfway between Montreal and Quebec City.
“There are too many places offering the same services.”
For groups of 36 or more, Gagnon and her partner throw in an adjacent five-bedroom, two-bath Victorian manor home built in the late 19th century by Wentworth, a British loyalist who settled in the area. Massages and other wellness services are available, but only by request.
The property is listed beginning at $1,495 per night.
While short-term rental websites have been around for decades, the runaway popularity of sites like Airbnb has led to an expansion in the kinds of properties that are offered for rent, according to one hospitality industry expert.
“You’re going to see more and more people who have extra space that’s unused find ways to try to rent it…from sailing boats to old warehouses to tree forts,” said Chris Gibbs, a professor at Ryerson University’s school of Hospitality and Tourism Management.
He says the change may also be driven by a shift in customer preference toward unique, personalized experiences rather than a simple hotel stay.
“When it comes to food, people want bolder flavours, more variety,” he said. “When it comes to accommodation, they want different experiences too, like the ability to sleep in a tent, or a Winnebago.”
A representative for the company that lists Gagnon’s property agrees.
“Families don’t live together in the same place anymore,” said Camille Dumas. “Families prefer to meet somewhere and rent a place to themselves (rather than) rooms in an inn.”
A quick glance around several short-term rental websites shows no shortage of unique accommodation experiences, be it a lighthouse in Prince Edward Island, a tree house in British Columbia or a houseboat in Ontario — the latter available on getmyboat.com, which has been described as “Airbnb for boats.”
In exchange for a fee, short-term rental platforms generally handle all the booking and advertising costs, saving property owners the expense of investing in technology, Gibbs said.
And, while finding a whole inn to rent is still a rarity, he points out there is an increasing number of three-and-four-bedroom luxury homes being listed.
Gagnon’s inn was built as a health- and wellness-themed facility in the mid-1990s by Quebec TV personality Claire Lamarche, but closed in 2011 due to declining customer demand.
Thus far, Gagnon says “Au domaine William Wentworth” has been a success and is booked for every weekend until November.
“I guess we were crazy,” Gagnon said of the decision to purchase the property.
“But, sometimes in life, opportunities come up and you have to decide whether you’re getting on the train.”