Branding lessons from the owner of the world's most booked-out and talked about Airbnb


 
 
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Captains Rest is like, going through the wardrobe to Narnia. It really is, ask any lucky soul who’s been and they will tell you it’s true. And it changed them. And they will be back.
— Sarah Andrews
 
 

The Captains Rest is a beautifully restored cabin-turned-Airbnb, tucked away amongst the historical waterfront village of Lettes Bay in Strahan, Tasmania.

In the year since the Captains Rest has been in operation, one thing has become clear: it really is a magical place to stay. It’s more than just an Airbnb, and it’s more than just a holiday destination. It’s an experience - complete with a rowboat and wood fire -  and by all accounts, one that is not easily forgotten.

The cabin’s owner, Sarah Andrews, is a woman who dons many unusual-yet-fabulous hats. She’s an unmistakably intriguing character with a lifetime of incredible stories to tell. She’s introverted, yet confident. She’s eccentric, yet private. The more you learn about Sarah and her story, the more you want to know.

Adventurer, Marketer, Photographer, Interior Designer, Innkeeper and Sailor are just some of Sarah’s impressive titles. And despite their seemingly unrelated nature, Sarah has perfectly aligned each of these roles and talents to create something truly unique in the Captains Rest.

Sarah bravely purchased the cabin that would become the Captains Rest just a year and a half ago without ever having seen the place. After finding the run-down fishing shack on the internet, she knew instantly that this was the place she would eventually call home.

“I was flicking through a magazine one day and read an article about that part of Tassie. The wildness and the brutality of the place just captured my spirit. I jumped on realestate.com and bought it on the spot that moment. It had been on the market for 5 years!”

While it may seem like a brazen purchase to some, Sarah’s bold and decisive move has since paid for itself in spades, with the Captains Rest quickly becoming one of the most booked-out (and talked about) Airbnbs in the world.

Already featured in an array of magazines and publications such as Country Style, Home Beautiful, Homestyle Magazine NZ, Design Sponge, The Roaming Mic, Good Weekend Magazine and more, it’s clear the Captains Rest has captured the hearts and minds of many.

So what is it about this refurbished cabin that has captivated people from across the globe and shone a spotlight on a little fishing village on the West Coast of Tasmania? According to Sarah, it’s the power of story, authenticity and meaning that people connect with on a deeper level.

When Sarah speaks, it feels like we’re ‘stepping into her world’, a world that is very much unlike our own. Sarah shares snippets of her life with her audience; she lets us take a behind-the-scenes look and imagine what life might be like where she is.

Like other smart marketers, Sarah has realised the power of storytelling in reaching and connecting with an audience. She doesn’t just tell us about the cabin and what it has to offer in a ‘features and benefits’ kind of way; she tells us about her life and about the loves and losses she’s faced along the way. She lets us in and tells us her secrets.

Sarah knows that originality holds currency. She knows that creating deep connections and owning our uniqueness are some of the most powerful marketing tools we have -- and that it’s crucial to driving bookings.

“There is something really important in speaking your own truth and vision without too much of a care for being like everyone else. There is story here, meaning and memory — and that is surprisingly rare in a world that all feels the same at times. I feel so strongly about the art and bravery of individuality.”

It’s clear that the Captains Rest really captures people's attention. It only takes a quick look at Sarah’s Instagram account to see hoards of lusty travellers falling over themselves to secure their stay in the cabin. The lesson? In an age where marketing as we know it no longer works and consumer attention is a precious commodity, every business owner needs to be a storyteller, too.

Thanks to the plethora of new and established social media channels, every business owner has the platform and the tools to reach a wide audience (for free) at the tap of a button. Every business owner has the forum to tell their story and connect with their following and build a relationship in ways that have never previously been possible.

“It’s person to person now, instead of business or community to person, so what works is a sense of authenticity”, Sarah says.

But how do you tell the greatest story you’ve ever told? Well, if we take a leaf out of Sarah’s book, it’s not about fabricating a fictional story where you are a fictional character doing fictionally-amazing things. It’s about recognising the story that already exists inside of you and letting that story be told in a way that is natural and authentic.

Everybody has a unique story to tell. We may not always feel that way, and we may not always believe that our story is particularly interesting or compelling, but to the right audience, it is.

Sarah takes storytelling to a whole new level; sharing the ups, downs, and at times, sheer craziness of life with her followers. There are so many moving parts that weave into Sarah’s story that all played a part in getting her to what would turn out to be the Captains Rest. We learn about Sarah’s divorce and subsequent heartache, about the time she got shipwrecked and almost died, about her battle(s) with cancer, about her love of the great outdoors...  

Because we’ve been ‘let in’ on the story of Sarah Andrews and the Captains Rest, we feel a bond with her. We want to find out more. We want to step into her world (literally) and find out for ourselves if it’s really as magical as people say it is. We want to experience a little piece of it for ourselves, escaping the doldrums of ‘normal life’.

But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for the busy Entrepreneur. When asked what she struggles with the most in business, Sarah says: “being so exposed and accessible on Instagram” wears her a little thin. “I would very much appreciate a function to turn off DM's!” We hear you, Sarah, we hear you.

Today, the Captains Rest is so sought after that it’s booked out more than 6 months in advance. But Sarah, being the smart marketer she is, knows that good things don’t last forever, reminding us that “everyone, no matter how well they are doing, should always be working on their marketing.”

Sarah has had so much success with the Captains Rest, she’s now teaching other homeowners how to style and ‘storify’ their homes in order to grow their bookings with her unique Airbnb Masterclasses, the first of its kind in the Airbnb market.

Curated experiences like the Captains Rest are certainly changing the industry and what people have come to expect from the Airbnb platform and its homeowners - and we can’t wait to see what magic Sarah creates next.

To book Sarah’s next Airbnb Masterclass, visit www.sarahandrewsworkshops.com

To book a stay at the Captains rest, visit www.captainsrest.com