As Spain swelters and COVID cases grow, pool renting app thrives

Customers enjoy the warm weather in a private swimming pool to avoid crowds in public swimming pools during the coronavirus pandemic in Madrid, Spain July 16, 2021. REUTERS/Javier Barbancho

ARROYOMOLINOS, Spain (Reuters) - A cooling dip in the mid-July swelter of central Spain no longer requires owning a private pool, or risking COVID-19 contagion at crowded public swimming facilities, Aura Cenet discovered.

The 21-year-old waitress from Madrid and her three friends hired a private pool in the garden of a house in Arroyomolinos, a town 28 km (18 miles) southwest of the capital city, using the Swimmy app.

"You are better protected here, without anyone to bother you. It's a good idea, I don't think I will go back to a municipal pool," Cenet told Reuters as she relaxed in the pool.

The pandemic has buoyed businesses such as pool manufacturing and maintenance across the world, as more people chose to avoid community pools and beaches.

Spain's Fluidra, the world's largest swimming pool equipment maker, in May posted a 40-fold jump in profit and said demand for residential pools was likely to remain strong.

Owners using the Swimmy app can earn up to 1,200 euros ($1,413) per month by renting out their pools, said Estefania Leiva, communications director at the Spanish arm of Swimmy, which was founded in 2017 in France.

Prices in the Madrid area typically range from 12 to 30 euros per person for a half day.

"Even though (COVID-19) restrictions have been relaxed this year, in May and June we have doubled the number of reservations compared with last year," Leiva said.

A new surge in infections this month has forced several regions to reimpose some restrictions in the past couple of weeks.

She said there were 150,000 app users who take their pick between some 3,500 private pools in Spain and France. Swimmy is also operating in Italy, Germany and the United States.

The owner of the pool rented out by Cenet and her friends started using the app last year.

"I rarely enjoy the swimming if I only use it a couple of hours I prefer others to enjoy it and the money comes in very handy because this kind of swimming pool is expensive to maintain," said Vanessa Ghirardato.

(Reporting by Silvio Castellanos and Michael Gore, additional reporting by Joan Faus, writing by Graham Keeley, editing by Andrei Khalip and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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