Motorhome rentals: Mighway & SHAREaCAMPER

By: Peta Stavelli

In the past year, two companies promoting private motorhome rental have launched, delighting both owners and travellers. Introducing Mighway and SHAREaCAMPER.

Flashback to last October when I was invited to test-drive the first of the privately-owned rental vehicles listed by Mighway – an offshoot of Tourism Holdings Limited (THL).

Back then, the concept was relatively new, having recently emerged on to the local scene with the launch of SHAREaCAMPER, run in New Zealand by husband and wife team Simone and Kris Johnstone.

Back then, it was not clear if there would be sufficient buy-in from vehicle owners to support even one such scheme. Six months down the track, the two companies are showing steady growth. Clearly there was an untapped market for providing a bridge between motorhome owners and private renters.

Witnessing this growth, I was beginning to see an emerging back story about how and why these previously unheralded schemes are working for owners whose once idle motorhomes are now creating revenue for them in the downtimes. It was also becoming clear that two quite different models of private rental could succeed in a relatively small marketplace. And not only could owners have a choice between two brands, they could also choose the level of service to which they subscribed.

It’s obvious to see by success of these timeshare-type schemes that they have been created to meet the needs of the market. And it’s also very clear that they are not going to go away anytime soon. If you’re still not sure this idea is going to take off, reflect for a moment on the growth of Airbnb. The online service connecting international travellers with the owners of private accommodation was launched in San Francisco just seven years ago and is now a household name.

Could we in New Zealand be witnessing the birth of a concept which will eventually be taken to the world, like Hokey Pokey ice-cream and Martin Jetpacks? Apparently yes. Mighway is actively looking to extend the concept into markets already occupied by parent company THL. These include the United States of America (USA) and Australia. Meanwhile, SHAREaCAMPER – which grew out of a partnership formed in Germany – is being fostered here and is already operating in both Germany and Australia.

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It’s not the first time New Zealand has been used as a proving ground for new schemes. The market here is a perfect size – neither too large nor too small, and we Kiwis are an adventurous lot – happy to be in on the ground floor, embracing new concepts like EFTPOS, same sex marriage and even (tongue firmly in cheek, here) votes for women. We’re entrepreneurial and adaptive providing a safe platform for fledgling businesses to fly in international markets.

Dave Simmons is chief operating officer (COO) for New Business, THL. He happily admits that Mighway’s growth has been organic, brought about through extensive consultation with motorhome owners. 

"We sat down with many owners and we listened and learned from them what their hopes and concerns were. Some were worried about insurance, roadside assistance and all the other ‘what if?’ scenarios which we could reassure them about because we have the backing of THL and The RV Supercentre."

With initial concerns addressed for many, it also emerged from discussions with owners that some wanted to meet people; others didn’t want to engage but looked forward to some return revenue to offset the upkeep of their RVs.

"It was on the back of discussions like that the management proposition came about," Dave explains.

Mighway has subsequently created a tiered scheme, including variations on the themes of Mighway Local and Mighway Managed. Mighway Local takes care of security, payment and safety concerns while allowing owners who choose this option to meet up with the newcomers. Mighway Managed takes care of everything from booking requests to payment, vehicle pick-up, customer support and vehicle returns. Owners can also choose a maintenance schedule and include storage options. Leveraging off its sister companies has meant that Mighway can also align with dealers and service centres throughout the country in the event of emergency repairs.

SHAREaCAMPER, meanwhile, provides a portal for connecting owners and renters. The company collects bonds and payments, checks driver ID and arranges insurance, while owners and their guests always meet face to face for handover. It’s around this interface that SHAREaCAMPER has continued to grow its market: Telling the stories of the shared journey from the perspective of the owners as they meet their guests. SHAREaCAMPER’s advertising tells the story from the owner’s perspective. In this way regular readers will have met Debbie and Colin Johnstone, Dee Lukey and Lyndon Haddon, all of whom are happy to share their glowing stories about how joining the scheme has worked for them.

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Angela Throner joined SHAREaCAMPER in 2015 and, since then her campervan has been hired out on a regular basis. For Angela ,the motivation to rent out her campervan is largely to share the Kiwi camping adventure. "By far the best part is engaging with people from all around the world and hearing stories of their adventures. Our experience with customers has been outstanding. Everyone has been very considerate and responsible and took good care of our campervan, besides having a fabulous time travelling around the South Island."

All of these testimonials make interesting reading, but one struck a particular chord with me. A change in employment meant KarenStokes was considering selling her motorhome. When she saw that with a private rental scheme she could have her cake and eat it too, Karen joined SHAREaCAMPER and shortly afterwards signed up for a 71-day rental with a "lovely" family from Christchurch. Others have opted for and enjoyed multiple rentals, so far hassle free. One owner is now considering the purchase of a third vehicle to meet demand. 

Meanwhile, over at Mighway, around 150 owners have signed up to the scheme, with more than a third of these owners opting for the managed platform. In addition to advertising in print, Mighway has an innovative online presence with two bloggers offering first hand travelogues. Testimonials also form a part of Mighway’s advertising approach to letting owners know that an idle motorhomes can pay its way.

But Mighway also has plans to spread the word to the world as a major sponsor of the World Masters Games which are to be held in Auckland in 2017. This is the world’s largest multi-sport event and will attract more than 25,000 athletes from over 100 countries. In total, it is expected that more than 35,000 people will converge on the city. And many of them will be looking for a motorhome. The Master Games are to be followed shortly afterwards by The Lions Tour which is also set to attract a huge crowd of spectators to New Zealand. The year 2017 looks set to be exceptional for New Zealand tourism and motorhome rentals.

Dave says these two events will create loads of opportunities for local owners. He has no doubt there will be people out there who are thinking about the benefits of the scheme. Some may not already have a motorhome, and with the ownership rental scheme they might see a way to own a motorhome earlier than planned and have it pay its way.

"We are definitely seeing a wide range of people considering motorhome ownership as an option as a result of being able to generate some income from Mighway. These models will certainly help grow the overall motorhome industry in New Zealand."

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