Swimply: Airbnb for swimming pools impresses

Swimply: Airbnb for swimming pools impresses

It’s been a long and hot summer in the US. While huge swathes of the country are sweltering under the relentless heatwave, cities and towns are struggling to keep open a summer staple: public swimming pools.

Due to a shortage of national lifeguards, many pools and beaches across the country are understaffed. In New York City, public pools have limited hours and reduce capacity. In Boston, some pools didn’t open at all. A third of swimming pools in the US have been hit by staff shortages, according to the American Lifeguard Association.

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To beat the heat, some turn to their neighbor’s backyard pool. Enter Swimply. The four-year-old start-up, also known as the Airbnb of pools, lets private homeowners rent out their swimming holes by the hour. Rates can range from $20 to $200, although most tend to fall in the $40-$60 per hour range. Swimply takes a discount on every transaction: 15 percent from hosts and 10 percent from swimmers.

The company started with four swimming pools in New Jersey before the pandemic. But things really took off during the public health crisis. The number of bookings on its platform grew from just 800 in the early days of 2019 to 100,000 last year. People were looking for a safe way to socialize outdoors with friends after months of lockdown. For pool owners, it was a way to raise extra money. Offerings also got a boost from the pool construction boom during Covid. In the US, 117,000 in-ground swimming pools were built by 2021, the most in more than a decade.

Swimply now has over 25,000 offers available in the US, Canada and Australia. It is on track to double the number of bookings to 200,000 this year. It’s still a minion compared to Airbnb, which reported 300.6 million nights and experiences on its website last year.

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But renting out pools to strangers may not be for everyone. There are safety, liability issues and unfortunate neighbors to consider. That could make Swimply a target for regulators and local authorities. It also has to do with competition. Peerspace and Swimmy are among those seeking a slice of the pool rental pie. Resortpass allows users to purchase day passes for hotel pools. Many private gyms, now reopened, also have swimming pools. Swimply can be a natural extension of the sharing economy. But it does its job of proving it’s not a flash in the pan.

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