Around the world, new types of unique holiday rentals appear every year.
We’ve seen an apocalypse of tiny houses for minimalists. Transparent bubbles for stargazing. Igloos for arctic escapes. Treehouses for adults that cost more per night than planting your own forest.
So what new trend will we see in 2020?
According to an Airbnb survey of travel trends, Shepherd’s Huts are the next big thing as people opt for simplistic spaces in remote rural areas. The huts themselves have been around for centuries, but are seeing a current boom as holiday rentals for people wanting to escape to the country for a private retreat.
On Airbnb, there are only five Shepherd’s Hut listings so far in New Zealand, but they are considerably more popular in the UK and France. Airbnb’s survey revealed a 112 per cent increase in Shepherd’s Hut bookings in the last year. Private companies are also offering visitors the chance to stay in the huts as an alternative to glamping.
In the age of the more eco-conscious traveller, the huts are considered ideal due to their small footprint and natural setting, offering a detox from urban life and the digital world. Traditional features include corrugated iron side panels and roof. To be classified as a shepherd’s hut rather than a tiny home, it needs to be rectangular cuboid in shape and typically have a curved roof.
Shepherd Huts NZ builds these types of cabins and owner/builder Steve Sygrove has noticed an increase in queries and orders.
“Driving the interest in these little huts is, on one hand, the need for somewhere safe and warm to sleep as a first ‘building’ on site before building a batch or house, or occasional use on a rural property,” he told the Herald.
“Secondly, there is very little available in New Zealand to stay in that is both novel and truly romantic in an old world way.”
Canopy Camping offers a Shepherd’s Hut experience in rural Canterbury. The company has two huts in their collection. Co-owner Liz Henderson says demand is strong across glamping accommodation in general.
“We think the main cause of this is the increased interest for people to escape the busyness of day-to-day life, detox digitally and immerse themselves in natural surroundings,” she told the Herald. “The increased interest in tiny houses and ‘unique builds’ fuelled by shows like George Clarkes Amazing Spaces probably helps too.”
So what makes a Shepherd’s Hut so attractive?
In its simplest description, the hut is portable accommodation on wheels, originally used for shepherds on their farm.
According to CoolCamping.com, an agency which lists holiday rental accommodation, shepherd’s huts originated several hundred years ago, possibly as early as the late 16th century.
“The huts were humble affairs, crafted on farms and built with whatever was at hand,” the website states. “If you had a resident carpenter or woodsman on the farm, then your shepherd’s hut would have been built from wood and, if a blacksmith, then it would be built from repurposed metal. These huts were not about luxury but about a simple, practical shelter for working hill farmers and shepherds.”
And so, in the same way camping has become glamping, today’s Shepherd’s Huts are far more luxurious than what the original version would have been. They retain the look and feel of the farmers’ sleeping quarters, but with electricity, modern bathrooms and all the mod cons expected in today’s rentals. They’re smaller than most tiny houses.
Sygrove says the benefits of the huts are that they can be towed around off-road with a tractor of 4WD. “But most of all, they are cute, beautiful even, and romantically rustic.”
Henderson shares a similar sentiment.
“I think what makes the Shepherd’s Hut so attractive is that they have real old-world charm, and when paired with some outdoor magic, like a beautiful setting and hot tubs or outdoor baths, they make a really unique rural retreat.”