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Why doesn’t the Mona Lisa have eyebrows? In what year was shampoo invented? What is the maximum number of holes a bowling bowl is allowed to have? These are just some of the questions you can expect in an unconventional trivia game with more than 400 questions and answers you’ll never see coming.
But Battan, a 58-year-old IT consultant, says he cautions others against mimicking his side hustle, even though heis Swimply’s highest earner out of 25,000 pools in the U.S., Canada, and Australia.
“If people think they’re going to build a pool and turn it into something that will earn $200,000 in two years, it’s a little bit of a fantasy,” warns Battan. “I’ve put a ton of work into it, and you have to have the right mindset. You have to have the right circumstances and a competitive advantage no one else has,” he says.
Here are the three reasons why Battan’s six-figure side hustle isn’t for casual pool owners.
1. Renting out your pool as a side hustle is competitive
When Battan joined Swimply two years ago, the Covid-19 pandemic had shut down public pools and there were only about seven other Swimply pools near West Linn, Oregon, the town of 27,000 people where Battan and his wife live. Now, there are at least 88 pools available to rent near the Portland, Oregon suburb, according to the site.
Battan says that number is growing — and the competition has more than halved his pool’s traffic.
“[Demand] is down even more than 50% over the last couple of months,” Battan says. “Kids are back in school and at soccer practice. On Swimply, there’s been phenomenal growth on the host side, so people have a [larger] array of pools to choose from.”
Despite decreasing demand, Battan continues to out-earn all other pool-owners on Swimply. He pulled in $117,000 last year, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It, but that number has dropped to $58,500 in 2022.
In July, Swimply co-founder and CEO Bunim Laskin told CNBC Make It that increased competition just means the platform is growing, and that successfully run pools will always have swimmers.
“As with any marketplace, there are ups and downs for individual hosts,” Laskin said at the time. “As the word gets out about Swimply, and we add additional hosts to the platform, we are also adding just as many additional users.”
Battan doesn’t regret joining the platform, though some side-effects of Swimply’s growth — from increased competition to occasionally slow customer support — have been frustrating. “It’s been a challenge for me,” he says.
2. Maintaining the pool is expensive
Battan’s 26-foot by 18-foot pool was built in 2012, when his three daughters lived at home and could enjoy it during summers. But Battan, who says he never shies away from a project, wanted the pool to be a luxury experience. He spent $110,000 on its construction, which includes a pool house and attached spa pool that he keeps at 130 degrees year-round.
“I do think of it as an investment,” Battan says of the pool. “When we moved in, I knew that would add to the value of the home. And this home has more than doubled in price in the last few years.”
Battan’s backyard set-up comes with a pool house and spa, which is kept at 103 degrees year-round.
Courtesy of Swimply
Maintenance is costly: He says he’s spent $41,344 on disinfecting and leveling the pool’s chemistry since launching on Swimply.
Keeping the pool in tip-top shape is what keeps customers returning, he says, which is particularly important given that Battan estimates roughly 35% of his swimmers are returning guests.
Still, Battan says the pool has paid for itself and then some: With his extra earnings, he built a “man cave” in his house.
3. It’s time consuming
Because Battan and his wife enjoy vacationing in luxury resorts, they want their pool to mimic a five-star experience. Along with its nearby amenities, he keeps pool toys and towels — plus heated blankets in the winter — within arm’s reach.
They also try to check in with every group of swimmers to ensure a positive experience.
The pool is also near the family’s rescue farm, where Battan’s wife cares for animals like pigs, raccoons and llamas.
There may be no more trendy European travel destination this fall than Dubrovnik, Croatia. Its narrow, cobblestone streets and almost perfectly preserved Gothic, Renaissance and late Romanesque buildings continue to draw visitors long after the summer travel season ends.
Crowds of visitors shuffle along the old town’s historic esplanade under an unforgiving late-summer sun, ducking into gelato shops and pizzerias to escape the oppressive heat. The bravest among them climb the city wall, which affords a stunning view of a turquoise Adriatic.
This year, it feels like summer may never end. At least that’s the assessment of Maris Picunic of the Villa Orabelle, a boutique hotel just outside the city walls.
“We’re getting close to where we were in 2019 in terms of visitors,” she says. Since Dubrovnik is so far south, it has a longer season, so there’s still time to match — and maybe even exceed — the 2019 visitor levels.
Graham Carter, founder of the luxury travel operator Unforgettable Croatia, agrees. He says he’s never seen anything like this.
“We expect the upcoming season to be much busier than previous fall seasons in Europe, with companies perhaps still struggling to meet ongoing demand,” he told me.
That’s good news for Croatia’s tourism industry. But for visitors looking for a deal, maybe not. Picunic says prices have come down “a little” from the end of the traditional summer travel season, but Dubrovnik remains one of the most expensive places in Croatia to vacation. Still, with the euro at parity, it is more affordable than it has been in years.
A new poll by Medjet suggests Europe is a hot destination this fall and winter. In its survey, 91% of respondents said they intend to travel by the end of this year, and 62% plan to travel internationally. The top region is Europe.
But where is everyone going — and where should you go? Once you get there, what should you do? More importantly, how do you find the best deals in Europe?
Where is everyone going in Europe this fall?
So, where’s everyone going this fall? It depends on who you ask.
Demand from U.S. travelers for European vacation homes has more than doubled compared to the same period last year, according to Vrbo. This fall, Paris tops the list of most popular European destinations. It’s followed by Rome, London, Florence, Lisbon and Barcelona.
World Nomads Group looked at its policyholders’ destinations and found that Italy, Greece, Croatia and Austria topped the list of European fall destinations.
“Travelers are less interested in visiting Spain and Germany,” says Christina Tunnah, general manager of global marketing at World Nomads Group. “There’s also been a slight drop in interest in France as a destination.”
Fall bookings to Europe are up 16% from last year, according to Travelport. For the U.K., they rose an eye-popping 70%. In fact, many European destinations were busier than they were in 2019. For the recent Labor Day holiday, Travelport found visits to Italy were up by 8%, Greece by 23%, Portugal by 25% and Turkey by 44%.
It’s difficult to gauge where people are going now because fall travel doesn’t usually attract a lot of attention from statistics-gatherers After all, it’s shoulder season — and it’s supposed to be dead quiet. But not this year.
Pro tip: I’ve interviewed dozens of travel experts about where to go and what to do in Europe this fall. There’s a consensus that choosing a less popular destination will give you the most bang for the buck. So if the prices in Dubrovnik are too high, go to Split. If Paris is too much, check out Nice. (It’s nice there this time of year.)
What to do in Europe this fall
Europe is a draw for all kinds of reasons, say experts. Kim Parizek, a travel advisor specializing in Europe, says her clients returning to countries they’ve visited, but not for the same old experiences.
“I’m spending a lot more time working with destination suppliers to look for new experiences that are off the beaten path,” she says. “The clients are returning to France or Italy for the fifth and sixth time — but now want to explore new and unique excursions, places to stay and restaurants.”
The hope is that they’ll be able to do it without the massive summer crowds that made many European destinations almost unbearable.
“Off the beaten path” seems to be a theme. I spoke with several tour operators who said their clients were looking for solitude — and maybe a place where winter doesn’t start too soon.
Turkey and southern Spain are particularly appealing. “Weather can still be lovely into November, while the crowds tend to disappear,” says Kelly Torrens, vice president of product for Kensington Tours. But, she adds, “It’s important to pack your patience as you set off on your trip.” That’s always good advice.
What are the pros doing? Limor Decter, a travel advisor with Embark Collective, is headed to Sicily in October to enjoy the cultural and natural attractions. She says the hoteliers she’s spoken to are hoping for a quieter fall. “They are looking forward to sharing their hospitality with travelers who patiently waited and avoided the summer of frenzied travel to enjoy a fall visit,” she says.
Pro tip: Many Americans have written off COVID in Europe this fall. But that’s a mistake, says Kate Fitzpatrick, regional security director at World Travel Protection. She notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still lists the United Kingdom and much of Europe as a “moderate” COVID threat. The CDC advises you to get up to date with your vaccines before traveling to a Level 3 destination. “This means that you have had not only the full initial vaccinations but any boosters for which you’re eligible,” she says. Here’s my free guide to planning a trip.
How to get the deals to Europe
The sooner you book your fall trip to Europe, the better, according to experts.
“My best advice would be to plan and book your trip well in advance to get the best deals for every stop along your preferred itinerary,” says Rajeev Shrivastava, CEO of VisitorsCoverage.com, a travel insurance marketplace.
Prices tend to drop for the fall travel season, but airlines have already begun pricing their tickets for the holidays.
Prices are all over the map, and you have to look carefully for the best deals. For example, I recently rented a car in Split, Croatia, for a week. On most U.S. travel sites, I couldn’t find anything for less than $600 — not a terrible price. But I found an upgraded car for just $160 when I rented at an off-airport location.
Pro tip: If you’re looking for a lower airfare, shoot for the week of October 10, says Expedia. “Average ticket prices are projected to be 20% lower than during summer for international flights,” says Christie Hudson, an Expedia spokeswoman.
Ready to visit Europe? Now may be the time to go
Despite higher prices and crowds, the fall of 2022 may be one of the best times to visit Europe. The euro is at par with the dollar, which means prices are lower. The crowds have thinned from the frenetic summer travel season. And the weather is cooling off. Even the locals I spoke to in Dubrovnik say the fall weather is here. (“You wouldn’t have wanted to be here in June,” Picunic confided. “It was way too hot.”)
Remember, prices will start to rise again as the holiday travel season approaches. And unless you’re lucky enough to be in a place like Portugal’s famous Alentejo region or Cyprus, you’ll need to bundle up.