Scaling a Hospitality Empire: Motel, STRs & More! (Episode 351)

Motel vs. Short-Term Rentals: Pro Hospitality Tips from Chama Trails, New Mexico

Today’s expert guests are Austin and Karlee Phippen, operators of an expanding portfolio of hospitality brands and businesses in scenic Northern New Mexico. Starting in just 2019, they’ve already built an empire in Chama – from boutique hotel rooms, a 16-room motel, a dozen co-hosted properties, and a sprawling ranch wedding venue.

With Austin’s background in construction, and Karlee’s formal education and experience in the hospitality industry, magic was bound to be made when these two teamed up. We hear all about how they took on the motel project, detail the fairytale love story behind their wedding venue, unpack how they collected a dozen co-hosting deals, and explain how they keep it all together – in their hearts, minds, and in their paperwork. 

As members of our Hosting Business Mastery Method membership, we’ve had front-row seats to Austin and Karlee’s growth (and many challenges) along the way. We’re so excited to bring that story to the larger hosting community today. 

(00:01:29) #STRShareSunday: @bluebirddaycottagemarin

  • Use of natural light and shadows in photography
  • Documenting construction and set-up
  • Leaning on engaging carousels and Reels 

(00:03:12) Thanks For Visiting Content Announcements

  • Property pricing content coming soon!
  • Partnering with Pricelabs 

(00:06:14) Pairing a Wedding Venue with a Motel

  • How Austin and Karlee’s business came to be
  • Buying  a motel to develop and live in
  • What’s the early vision/plan for the motel?
  • How the deal with her parents shook out

(00:15:32) Renovating, Repairing, Remodeling & Running a Remote Motel

  • Ran the business as-is for one year to learn 
  • Prioritizing AC as their first big addition
  • What was the transition period like? (awkward)
  • Learning from experienced housekeeping staff
  • Evolving staff needs and expectations

(00:21:55) Detailing Their Expanding Business Model

  • How STR hosting and co-hosting fits into their work
  • Networking their way into additional properties 
  • Quickly expanding co-hosting business 
  • Managing a 16-room motel vs. 11 short-term rentals 
  • Adding boutique hotels rooms to the slate 
  • Recap of their various properties and listings 
  • How they approach branding and social media 
  • Utilizing Guesty to bring it all together

(00:30:45) Current-Day Operations at Chama Trails Motel

  • Their experience as live-in managers  
  • A book’s worth of wild late-night stories 
  • Providing housing to the current motel manager 
  • Growing wedding venue business leads them to move out

(00:38:31) A Classic Love Story at Log River Ranch

  • Deep family history on the property 
  • Building the centerpiece barn 
  • The first wedding in 2017 – their own!
  • Connecting the wedding business to their property listings 

(00:41:10) Division of Time, Labor & Profits 

Download a transcript of this episode.




This week, the #STRSundayShare spotlight shines on Mill Valley, California. The Blue Bird Day Cottage is a thoughtfully designed home with some serious Californian flair. It’s just minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge, beaches, and the magnificent redwoods. These super hosts have created the perfect space for couples to relax, adventure, or work remotely. The property offers a true California experience surrounded by a pollinator garden just a five-minute drive from local groceries and eateries.

We would love to feature YOU, so don’t forget to use #STRShareSunday to get your chance!

Together, Annette & Sarah are the dynamic duo behind the wildly popular podcast Thanks For Visiting, co-creators of the Hosting Business Mastery Method, & seasoned short-term-rental hosts.

Meet Your Hosts


keep listening...