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How Long is a Piece of (Luxury Holiday Accommodation) String?

What is a bargain? What is value for money?

It’s that funny time of year. Christmas and New Year have come and gone and we are all still here in spite of seriously gloomy Mayan prognostications.

So what to do? How do we keep up the sense of excitement and euphoria? To avoid inertia we’ve got to have a purpose, we’ve got to see a way ahead… Everywhere you turn there are predictions and announcements about the year ahead, what will and won’t happen, what will be the latest fashion and what will not, who will be in and who out.

The travel industry is as keen as any to enthuse potential customers into future activity. I read somewhere that Thomson’s Holidays is braced for a massive number of bookings and enquiries on Sunday (Jan 6th) which is apparently THE key day for forward planning in the post-Christmas spell of apparent gloom. So, the message they want you to hear is, if you want to book a Thomson’s holiday, get in quick! It will be amusing to see what happens to our bookings. (We’ll let you know…)

TripAdvisor recently commissioned a review of 5,600 people, and announced with a roll of drums which echoed round Facebook and travel blogs, that 25% of those questioned intended to spend more on their holidays this year. No one seemed to have read further on to see that in fact far more – 42% – intended to spend the same and indeed nearly one third intended to reduce their expenditure.

But even though this seems less optimistic figures like these are meaningless. If last year you went on a round the world cruise, you surely would expect to be spending less this year unless you were going to repeat the exercise, but you might still be spending a lot of money by ‘normal’ standards. Or someone else might be pushing the boat out by by spending two nights in a budget hostel rather than one.

Visit Britain is planning a big ‘staycation’ campaign to encourage people to holiday at home. This suits us, of course, and holiday cottages would not be so popular if no one holidayed at home anyway! Funnily enough earlier today we were talking to our guests who were leaving after their New Year week here. They were saying they used to go abroad but planned now to keep exploring Britain and to avoid the frustrations and stress of airport travel.

They were marvelling over the variety of scenery our small island has to offer, and how standards have risen including the quality of food. We agreed whole-heartedly with that. In the thirteen years since Tom’s Barn was ‘born’ our own expectations have risen, and those of our guests. We have always aimed, right from the start, to provide top quality five star service but the quality of this top quality service has increased…

So how do you measure quality? How do you define ‘value for money’? How long is a piece of string? Just occasionally someone will ring up to enquire about booking a week in high summer, or perhaps at Christmas, and when we mention the price (£655 is the top rate now) we will be told with a horrified gasp that they can easily get a week for under half that. No doubt you can, somewhere, but is the price fully inclusive? Will you perhaps arrive and find the cottages damp, dark and unloved without even a comforting teabag awaiting you? Do you have to pay for extra firewood, or electricity? (We once stayed in a holiday cottage where I rather disappointingly spent the first day cleaning, simply enough to make it hygienic and throughout the holiday the children had to sit on their anoraks on the seriously greasy/grubby/damp sofa. We were freezing cold because we didn’t learn how to work the electricity meter until the last day and just as well, the rate it gobbled up our £1 coins. That holiday and that cottage has gone down in family history as one of mother’s very worst family ‘treats’!)

It was a useful first lesson in what we, as a fairly ‘normal’ family without particularly demanding high standards, would try hard to avoid in future and what we would look for instead: care, comfort, cleanliness and good quality throughout. So, my moral is, if you want a bargain basement discount cheapie don’t look here! If you don’t mind paying more for the best quality and service we can provide for you, we might be the place you’re dreaming of. You might even feel it was a bargain at the price…

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