Shortage of Accommodations in a Rural Area

Visitor Question: We are in a small town in a rural area. We are not near a major highway and do not have any big industries or anything. We do have a school and a few nice stores though. One of the problems we have been struggling with is figuring out something to do about a shortage of accommodations in our area. When children and parents come for our annual band competition, there is literally no place convenient for them to stay. If we have family or friends visiting, especially if there are several people such as for a wedding, we do not have any type of motel or hotel that we can offer. Are there any ideas about what we can do about this?

Editors Reply: We have seen similarly situated towns try all manner of solutions to this common problem.

Not surprisingly, the one that is becoming increasingly common is encouraging local homeowners to prepare short-term rental units to offer on online platforms. One town we recently visited was quite successful in this, especially when they recognized that owners would not necessarily need to list online, which incurs a cost for them of course.

If your need is only occasional, such as for a special event or wedding, this might entice some homeowners who otherwise would not want to participate in the constant shuffle and uncertainty of short-term rentals. You could even offer a digital file to sponsors of events, parents of brides, and so forth as a substitute for open listing online. The homeowners would then reap the benefit of some rental income without having to pay a middleman.

Those who find they enjoy being a host might then want to list online year-round.

A second option for rural communities lacking accommodations is to work with an entrepreneur to set up a very small inn. In this context very small means three or five rooms, for example. This sounds as if it would not meet your immediate need, as the band festival could easily overwhelm such a tiny business and not really meet the community need. However, for some readers of this website, this will be an answer they have not considered.

The tiny inn might be created by revamping a long-vacant commercial space in the downtown or even a neglected barn just outside of town. Both can become charming inns, but in those situations, the likely customers have to be willing to pay enough for charm that the building refurbishment costs can be paid off. In our opinion, this likely is not the case for band families.

One other possible solution we have seen is establishing a campground. This might work for some situations in scenic areas, it might work for band festival families, but we doubt that the grandmother or great-grandmother of the bride is going to be very impressed with this idea.

The very weak option that does not add to your local economy is hiring a shuttle bus to bring visitors from a town on the highway to your town for the special day. If none of the other possibilities work out for you, and certainly in the short term before you can establish another program, this might offer some potential for you.

We hope these thoughts will spur you and others in your town to explore some ideas carefully.

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