Skift Take

The traveling public is ready for a rolling container hotel caravan sold through Airbnb, but there's a lot of moving parts to get this up and running.

Shawn Bouley, founder of Rollick Hotels, thinks there’s a market for mobile cargo container sleeping rooms placed outside major U.S. events where traditional room inventory is sold out.

There is a precedent for this. Snoozebox in Britain has been delivering pop-up container hotels to sporting events throughout the country, such as the British Grand Prix and Ryder Cup. Bouley says a similar model will work on a larger scale in the U.S., because there are more major events, and the rooms can remain open all year in warm weather states.

Produced by G-Pod in Hong Kong, the modified 20-foot “Dwell” containers resemble luxury RVs, with a similar system of expandable compartments and moveable decks and canopies. Once it’s up and running, Rollick Hotels will travel around the country from event to event with caravans of G-Pods, much like the NASCAR circuit or a rock and roll road show.

The G-Pods are fully self contained with electrical and plumbing hookups designed to tie into public utilities. For sewage, there’s a Mothership G-Pod that services the units on a regular basis.

With two decades of experience in events and entertainment, including positions with the U.S. Olympics, Super Bowl and Final Four, Bouley says there’s a slew of popular events in North America that are desperate for alternative lodging.

For example, single room nights during South by Southwest in Austin and Bonnaroo in Tennessee top $1,000 in select service hotels, while the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo is hit with 2.5 million people every year. Coachella 2015 in Palm Springs sold out three months in advance.

The Bass Master Classic in Oklahoma, America’s Cup, Kentucky Derby and various PGA tournaments are other examples of popular events that Rollick Hotels is attempting to partner with. Often at these events, large corporations and sponsors take over many of the best room blocks in the preferred event radius, so this gives other people a chance to secure premium space.

“Among everyone we’ve talked to, they’re basically saying, ‘Bring everything you’ve got,'” says Bouley, who has built up a vast network of contacts in the event industry. “The event business is very fragmented, so our connections are a key strategic advantage for us.”

Rollick Hotels is presently testing the online fundraising model with a month-long Crowdfunder campaign. For 2015, the goal is to build and try out prototypes in smaller numbers to streamline operations. Next year, Bouley is aiming to deliver 120 G-Pods to Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco.

He also wants to tap into the convention market where hotel prices are becoming prohibitively high for some companies and organizations due to surging demand in many cities during peak seasons.

Bookings will be made through Airbnb to generate exposure and interest among a like-minded crowd of adventurous travelers.

“Container modification projects are a dime a dozen, but nobody’s doing this on the lodging side, and definitely not at scale,” says Bouley. “We want to create a community of regular guests. We believe that a lot of people go to the same type of events who will want to stay with us again and again after their first time.”

Greg Oates covers hospitality and tourism development. Email him at [email protected].

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Tags: airbnb, hospitality, sharing

Photo credit: The G-Pod room units are produced by a group of Australian architects living in Hong Kong. Rollick Hotels

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