With the holiday letting market being so competitive, it is lovely to hear how one of our owners has gone the extra mile to provide free activities and entertainment for their guests; something that has proven to be a great success both in terms of guest (and owner!) satisfaction and encouraging repeat business. As owners, we often focus on providing activities in our cottages for children. However, providing activities for adults, in which the younger ones can also participate, is a great idea and one that could generate repeat business, broaden letting appeal and increase bookings at quieter times of the year.
As an owner advertising on Independent Cottages, Tina has very kindly shared with us her experiences in offering Art and Craft based activities to her guests…
Getting Art and Crafty with our guests – Tina Girard from Millmans Cottages.
Since we took over Millmans Cottages fifteen years ago, we have noticed that our guests are now looking for more activity based holidays rather than a beach holiday. Maybe it is because our British summer weather can be unpredictable; that too much sun is bad for our skin or simply that busy families use their holiday to re connect with each other and enjoy learning a new skill or experiencing something novel together. Kirstie Alsop’s shows and The Great British Sewing Bee (sister of the Great British Bake-Off) have opened many people’s eyes to a wide variety of crafts and sewing and what better way to try them out than in a taster Art and Craft workshop whilst you are on holiday.
As keen Art and Crafters, we started to offer free art and craft taster sessions for our cottage guests last year. Edward showed our guests the art of Zentangling. For those who are thinking ‘what is that?’, have you ever doodled on the back of an envelope while on the phone? Well you’re half way there; it is an art form of basic shapes filled in with patterns which can be very simple or elaborate – that’s the Tangle. The Zen part is how you start to relax when you get absorbed when Tangling. Anyone can Zentangle, young or old with very little art skills and we have had some amazing results on paper and stones.
Our craft workshops have produced some lovely results too, with many being more sewing and jewellery based as that is my forte! We have made little owls; fabric and button brooches using recycled material and vintage buttons; dangly bead earrings; button bracelets and necklaces; little patchwork coasters; padded hearts and Scottie dogs; key rings; drawstring bags; crochet squares and the teenagers loved making Shamaballa style woven beaded bracelets. It gives me great pleasure to see our guests, who come from not only the UK but all over the world, chatting and getting to know each over the craft table. Foreign visitors take advantage of the opportunity to practise their English and firm friendships have been started over the button box when selecting the perfect buttons for a brooch or owl eyes! Our guests leave our craft room with a finished project which they can take home as a holiday gift, new skills and are on first name terms with everyone.
As mentioned at the beginning, these taster sessions are free to our guests and we give them the opportunity to make a donation to our Starlight box. A very worthwhile charity, Starlight not only gives wishes to children with life threatening conditions and their families but also does a wonderful job at brightening children’s lives through entertainment, fun and laughter while in hospital. With generous donations, we have raised £850 through our workshops and fundraising in 2013, a great achievement and a huge thank you to all of our guests who have given so generously.
What do we get in return for our efforts? Enormous pleasure in sharing our skills and hobbies, laughter, friendships and a huge amount of satisfaction in the knowledge that we have raised money for a worthwhile cause… and maybe more repeat bookings next year!
What next? I am working on new ideas for this year’s free taster workshops for our guests and for those who have got bitten by the Art and Crafting bug, specially tailored course breaks in drawing, watercolour, jewellery, patchwork and quilting, bag making and small Christmas gifts and decorations. Tina Girard, Millmans Cottages, Devon.
We very much appreciate Tina sharing her experiences with us and would love to hear from any other owners who also offer activities or entertainment for their guests (please leave your comments below).