How did Toad Hall Cottages come about?
Toad Hall Cottages was created in 1988 by our current owners, David and Sarah Hanmer. Having settled in the area, they recognized a need for a good quality, locally based holiday accommodation provider and the business grew from there. The company has grown tenfold since then, whilst managing to maintain the feel of a homegrown, family business.
How do you know if a property is right for your portfolio?
Our range of customers is so diverse that we take on properties of all shapes and sizes. From studio flats with sea views to huge period houses in the countryside, we try to offer something for everyone.
Location is hugely important, our mission has always been to offer the best rural, coastal and waterside properties in the West Country. And, while we love our luxurious 5 star properties in locations like Salcombe and Sandbanks, there is also a place in our portfolio for dog-friendly, family homes that can handle sandy feet and muddy paws.
Most importantly, we want all of our properties to be clean, well-furnished and offer our guests great access to the best of the area.
How have the requirements from your visitors changed over the years?
Since the 2008 recession there’s been a steady shift towards domestic holidays and staycations. As a result, the expectations of our guests has also increased and the industry has had to respond. In the 10 years that have followed we’ve noticed a dramatic increase in the quality of accommodation available and have worked alongside our owners to respond to the changing demand. The shift hasn’t just affected holiday cottage owners but also the people who run cafes, pubs, restaurants and attractions as well who have all had to step up their game.
The result is that business owners and property owners really have to earn their money these days and that means much better quality accommodation, world class attractions and a richer overall holiday experience.
How would you like to see your business developing?
We’re continuing to grow in our existing locations in Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset and the New Forest. We never like to rest on our laurels so are continually striving to improve our service, both to our owners and our guests.
It’s always been important for us to get the right balance between consolidation and growth, so while we continue to take on new properties we’re working hard to improve our website and infrastructure by training up new members of the team and opening new offices needed to support them.
We’ve just added 20 new properties based in Sandbanks, Dorset this month which we’re really excited about. It’s only about two and a half hours from London and we’ve already got two offices nearby, so we think this is going to offer our guests something a little bit different.
Where are your favourite locations in the West Country?
The best thing about the West Country is that it’s so vast and so beautiful that I tend to find a new favourite place every couple of months! In the summer, it’s hard to beat the South Devon beaches, I love getting off the beaten track and dragging the family along the South West Coastal Path to find some hidden cove that few people can be bothered to get to. There are secret beaches all along the West Country coastline that come and go with the tide, so no two days out ever seem to be the same.
There’s something magical about exploring the old Cornish coast as well. It’s a lot more rugged than South Devon and we love stumbling across the old mine buildings that stand so solemnly all over the county – We’re also huge Poldark fans so get sucked right into the history and romance of it all.
The same goes for Dartmoor, the vastness of it is something to behold. It’s great that in less than an hour you can go from a picture perfect beach like Bantham, all the way up to the rugged remoteness of Haytor, or the ancient charm of places like Widecombe and Chagford – just watch out for the ponies!
What makes a perfect holiday for you?
One of the benefits of working in the industry is you get a daily reminder of how valuable holidays are to people. We’re all so busy these days, there’s so many daily stresses and so much pressure on people that time away with the family, with a loved one or with friends has become a vital part of our well-being.
With that in mind, a perfect holiday for me means making memories with the people who are most important in a place completely detached from my everyday life.
Being able to get outdoors, to country pubs, on to beautiful beaches – to swim in the sea, surf or play in the rock pools with my kids; these are all the ingredients for a perfect holiday and we’re lucky to have so many opportunities down here to do all that and more.
Making the most of this small window of freedom is so important.
That’s why we’re constantly working to make sure that get the accommodation side of things just right so that our guests can get on with enjoying themselves.
This interview was featured in Hot Brands Cool Places – Travel – February 2018 online magazine, click here to view the full issue