A ‘surge in staycationers’ will save our summer

A ‘surge in staycationers’ will save our summer

THE owners of a boutique glamping retreat in Warwickshire say they hope a ‘surge in ‘staycationers’ will help them bounce back from a three-month lockdown that is forecast to have cost the business more than £100k.

Jo Carroll and Steve Taylor are now ready to welcome back guests after taking comprehensive steps to make their holiday homes COVID-Secure.

Winchcombe Farm, COVID-19

Winchcombe Farm Holidays in Tysoe, is preparing to throw open the doors to its luxury lodges as they emerge from a damaging three-month lockdown following today’s Government announcement allowing holiday accommodation in England to reopen on July 4th.

Situated in the picturesque Cotswold village of Upper Tysoe, it is one of thousands of small independent holiday home companies to have welcomed the green light for trading again.

Jo and Steve say they hope show staycationers will help them bounce back in business, although think the current quarantine rules will greatly affect the amount of foreign tourists they normally see flocking to the area.

The enterprising couple, who established their glamping business just over two years ago on the foundations of their former privately-run nursery, currently have three lodges and a tree house for guests on their farm. Work on opening a fifth lodge this year, called Ben’s Burrow, had to be shelved as they were relying on income from this year’s main season to complete the build.

Willl’s Treehouse

Steve said: “It goes without saying the last few months have been catastrophic for the tourism and hospitality sector as a whole. We’ve had to delay our expansion plans and have spent the last few months just fighting as hard as we could to stand still.”

The entrepreneurs received emergency support from the Government’s Hospitality Grant Scheme – which covered all their basic utility bills – plus free business rates for this year, but fell into the 10% of workers who didn’t qualify for any personal financial help.

Steve said: “The business was set up as a partnership and we were self-employed. As all the profits we made are poured straight back into the company, we couldn’t claim a Self -Employed Grant. Neither could we furlough ourselves as we aren’t PAYE”.

Winchcombe is opening to a busy calendar of bookings and re-bookings for the summer months but fear that concerns around a possible second wave of the virus is deterring longer term enquiries.

Jo said: “We would normally have a bursting diary for the autumn months too, along with a waiting list for cancellations; however, we’re just not seeing that this year.

Certification from Visit England’s ‘Go to Good’ Scheme and the AA’s COVID Certification Scheme – both aimed at building consumer confidence in travel – should offer reassurance.

Jo added: “The housekeeping regime between guest stays is rigorous but essential in the current climate. It includes dishwashing the entire contents of the kitchen and treating carpets and soft furnishings with virucidal disinfectant mist, with our housekeepers changing their PPE each time they enter a new room.

“We’ve had to double up on staff, spend a fortune on PPE and extend check in times, so we can complete the level of sanitary clean that is required to make us compliant.”

“There’s obviously a huge cost implication, however, it’s better to be able to open again and welcome in guests than remain closed.”

Further preventative measures include the removal of all non-essential and fabric furnishings, including rugs, from the properties as well as books, games and toys and the welcome baskets now only contain single-packaged items.

The couple are preparing themselves for a long journey ahead amid industry speculation that it could take years – rather than months – to fully recover from the effects of lockdown.

Steve said: “The revenue from the first few months when we reopen will be used to refund the remainder of guests who had to have their stays cancelled. This, on top of fear of a second wave of coronavirus in the autumn, makes it difficult to try and make any headway this year. On top of that, we’re nosediving into a depression and think it’s fair to stay that recovery for hospitality and tourism will take a lot longer than some other sectors.”

Once cash flow allows, the couple are planning to resume work on converting a former day nursery building into a new holiday home that sleeps 11. It is hoped the lodge, which comes complete with exclusive star-gazing dome and hot tub, will now be complete by early winter.

Visit Winchcombe Farm Holidays at: http://winchcombefarm.co.uk/

CORONAVIRUS: Joining forces to ward off effects of pandemic

CORONAVIRUS: Joining forces to ward off effects of pandemic

A GROUP of enterprising small business owners in south Warwickshire have joined forces in the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic.

Winchcombe Farm glamping retreat in Upper Tysoe, has risen to the challenge of surviving the economic impact of the outbreak by inviting other neighbouring businesses to work together.

Winchcombe Farm, Jo Carroll, Steve Taylor, Coronavirus, Tysoe
Steve Taylor and Jo Carroll.

Owners Jo Carroll and Steve Taylor have teamed up with five other small businesses who will now offer a delivery service directly to the doors of their four holiday lodges – from hot meals through to artisan gin.

Jo said: “Due to our remote rural location, we remain open because the very nature of our business means you can stay in a tranquil private lodge or tree house amongst nature in an isolated location.

“Normally the only deliveries we receive are from the postman, but now other businesses like ourselves, are having to diversify to stay in business, and are offering delivery services”.

The enterprising couple are working around the clock to ensure their guests continue to enjoy safe and enjoyable stays on their farm and don’t miss out on any of the local delicacies on offer – including dry from the Pinnock Distillery  in the nearby village of Kineton.

Dan Beckett, owner Pinnock Distillery, said: “In what is undoubtedly the most challenging of times for small businesses, it is also heartening to see support and collaboration in action in this way and I am delighted to be working with Winchcombe Farm. This luxury holiday retreat is the perfect partner for our brand and we’re proud to be able to do our bit, along with other local businesses, to even further enhance their visitor experience.”

Jo added: “We’ve teamed up with our local gastro pub. Why go out to the pub, when it will come to you! The Peacock at Oxhill is now delivering all their delicious meals directly to guests in our holiday homes.

“Their chef has designed a takeaway menu fit for a king, including lots of lovely comfort food such as homemade steak and ale pie with creamy mash and sticky toffee pudding.

“Guests can give us a call and we will drop down linen tablecloths and napkins, plus a candelabra so you feel like you are really there!”

Winchcombe Farm, Ofishial Foods, Tysoe, Shenington, Coronavirus, Jo Carroll
Susie Medcalf hands over a delivery from Ofishial Foods to Kate Ashfield of Winchcombe Farm.

The local butcher – HC Lewis in Kineton, (www.lewisbutchers.co.uk) is geared up to make meat deliveries directly to guests and home-cooked frozen meals from Ofishial Foods are also available to pre-order.

Jo said: “This wonderful company is based just up the road from us in Shenington and have a dropped a couple of samples down for us to try so we can highly recommend them to guests. They will take orders and payment over the phone and then deliver your meals to us in time for your arrival. We’ll pop them in the freezer for you so they’ll be ready and waiting for you.”

John Hartley, of Ofishial Foods, said: “We are delighted to supply a wide range of tasty ready meals to Winchcombe Farm Holidays guests. Our meals are hand made in our kitchen just up the hill and we are so local we could deliver them on foot.”

Winchcombe Farm, Jo Carroll, Steve Taylor, Coronavirus, Tysoe
Tommy Hewitt of H C Lewis

Tommy Hewitt, butcher at H.C Lewis Butchers based in Banbury Street, Kineton said: “We sell a huge range of local reared meats, as well as eggs, savouries such as pies and deli treats. We introduced a delivery service in response to the recent situation and it’s proved such a huge hit with customers, we are looking into making it a permanent feature of our service. People clearly want good quality, fresh meat delivered directly to their door.”

Shipston-on-Stour baking company Sweet Heart Bakes are also on hand to deliver their fresh homemade quiches, tarts and puddings directly to the door when pre-ordered.

Winchcombe Farm is home to four bespoke luxury holiday homes, including Warwickshire’s only tree house, nestling in an idyllic Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the rolling Warwickshire countryside on the North East tip of The Cotswolds, and lies beneath the famous landmark battleground of Edgehill.

For more information and bookings visit: http://winchcombefarm.co.uk or call 01295 680190.