FLOAT ON: Danielle Bolender, manager at Lilypad in Newport Harbor, says the houseboat business has grown into a year-round operation. Lilypad is joined in Rhode Island waters by new arrivals to the Fox Point area in Providence.
From the family-owned Lilypad moored in Newport Harbor to six arrivals at Fox Point Marina in Providence this summer operated by Boston-based SleepAfloat, houseboats are among the newest entrants to the state’s hospitality industry.
“We’ve become a year-round business. It’s kind of a niche,” said Danielle Bolender, who manages the rental of the Lilypad, which they began offering to guests in 2006.
The houseboat is moored a very short distance offshore from Fort Adams, giving the complete 360-degrees, on-the-water experience, said Bolender, whose family owns Brenton Cove Moorings.
Beautiful though it may be, being on the water can be a new experience for some people, so Bolender greets all her guests, familiarizes them with the boat and surroundings and is available by phone or text around the clock.
To maximize the houseboat experience, she offers catering, which she does herself.
The business has been growing slowly, but steadily, she said. It began with word-of-mouth and now the houseboat is listed on VRBO, which is Vacation Rentals By Owner, and HomeAway.
According to R.I. Hospitality Association President and CEO Dale Venturini, the houseboat rental market is a new concept in the state.
“It is a novel idea and provides visitors with a unique lodging option,” she said, adding that it is too early to tell what impact it will have on hotels.
“We … look forward to continuing to monitor this growing trend,” she said.
Online sites helped David Barnes, a resident of Cheshire, Conn., find the Lilypad after he saw it, with a ‘for rent’ sign, while he was jet skiing on an earlier visit to Newport.
“I’ve stayed in a condo and I’ve stayed at my brother’s house in Newport and they’re fine, but I was looking for something a little bit different,” said Barnes, who works in commercial real estate.