Updated on September 13th, 2020
Do you feel safe to travel yet? Be it an overseas trip or a staycation, one of the biggest areas of concern is, where will I stay & will it be safe? To learn more about how things have changed, I spoke to a friend who runs a holiday let business in the UK. I felt reassured & if you need to feel the same, then read on.”
In these current times when the world is facing the COVID-19 pandemic, has it destroyed travel? Do you feel safe to go out exploring yet? It is important for me to feel confident to take my first tentative steps back out into the world. During the research for my upcoming trip to Scotland, I discovered that there is now so much more to consider. However, I also wanted to better understand what the impact & expectations are from the industry themselves. My friend Tracy owns Low Hagg Farm Holiday Cottages in North Yorkshire, so I reached out to her to help me. I found it fascinating & reassuring what she had to say & as such decided to share it with you. I hope it helps give you peace of mind, it certainly did for me.
Tracy & I have been friends for 20 years. Back in 2015, she decided to close her successful PR business & follow her dream to move to Yorkshire. With her husband, Patrick she bought a farmhouse with some holiday letting properties just outside Kirkbymoorside in North Yorkshire. I have visited a number of times over the years. I was last there in February, just before the madness happened. It has been inspiring to see how what started as a dream, has become a reality for Tracy, Patrick & their 3 beautiful dogs.
Low Hagg Farm
Low Hagg Farm lies on the edge of the spectacular North Yorkshire Moors. It is just 1 1/2 miles from the lovely old market town of Kirkbymoorside and six miles from Helmsley. The former farm is situated in a tranquil position amongst open countryside & the sympathetic conversion of old stone farm buildings provides three beautiful, dog-friendly holiday cottages exuding
country charm, character and comfort.
So, over to Tracy…
What guidelines do you now need to follow?
Visit England have an industry-standard called “WE’RE GOOD TO GO”. We have gained the accreditation which means we have followed UK Government & industry standard COVID-19 guidelines. We have a Risk Assessment in place & all processes to maintain cleanliness & social distancing. The most important thing is that our guests feel confident & reassured about coming to visit us at Low Hagg Farm.
We have always prided ourselves on our level of cleaning & have received a lot of positive feedback. When guests arrive at Low Hagg Farm, I ensure that the cottages are sparkling clean.”
However, for obvious reasons, our cleaning regime is now even more stringent & at changeovers, we clean everything with both antiviral & antibacterial cleaner. I cannot afford to miss anything. If guests find one thing which is not clean, it will affect how they feel about the whole place & all our efforts will have gone to waste. I cannot risk that this has any way to be part of the experience.
What about the things that can’t be cleaned every time?
For soft furnishings like curtains, rugs & carpets we use an anti-viral spray. For items like mattress & pillow protectors, pillows themselves & duvets, we spray & then remove them from the accommodation. They are then placed in quarantine until the next week. With cushions, we have kept these to a minimum & rotate them after each visit.
We also provide a library of books, DVDs & games to each cottage. We have created a Swap Box & after each changeover, we switch out the box & again, quarantine for a week. Certain items have been removed from the cottages to make cleaning more manageable, such as coffee machines. Some had a lot of extra pieces of crockery which just weren’t necessary, so all have been removed, which enables us to run everything through the dishwasher during the changeover.
What guidance do you provide to guests?
I have created some guidelines which are issued to guests before they come to ensure all expectations are made clear. These include:
What to bring
Facemasks – for tourist attractions, shops etc. We also remind guests that re-useable fabric masks should be washed at the end of each day.
Disposable Gloves – for fuel refills or electric car charging.
First Aid kit including paracetamol & a thermometer.
Tickets – entrance numbers to attractions are reduced to allow social distancing. Advance booking is important if possible.
Pillows & pillowcases – for extra peace of mind, although they are provided.
Arrival & Departure
We like to stay informed about arrival times to allow us to stagger guests should it be needed. It’s important that these are adhered to as closely as possible. Many guests get food deliveries & for the same reasons we need to be aware of these too.
I usually enjoy greeting & showing guests around their cottages. Sadly, this is no longer possible, but I am always around to help if needed. In addition, due to the longer cleaning times, late check-outs are a thing of the past.”
We also provide a Welcome Pack for all our guests, but it has had to change as a result of the pandemic. This now includes a pocket-sized hand gel & milk, but we can no longer provide tea, coffee, sugar, cooking oil, salt & pepper. Instead, I have added some wine & my usual home-baked cakes.
In addition, we now have now added hand gel to our fabulous range of Tyneham soaps, provided in all our cottages, and this is also available in the communal utility room. Luckily, we do not have many common areas but for those establishments that do, these would be the biggest challenge. How guests can help, is to keep their activity in these areas to a minimum. For example, our only real communal area is the laundry. When anyone visits, we request that they use the hand sanitiser provided on their way in & their way out. When a recent guest seemed to be washing every day, this wasn’t helpful. I encourage everyone to take their laundry home with them, if possible, but the laundry facility is available if needed.
We encourage the use of the dishwashers throughout their stay wherever it is practicable.
For my first trip see – Scottish Highlands Itinerary, A Perfect 10 Day Road Trip for the Highlands & Islands
How can your guests help you & how has this changed?
I ask the guests to strip all their own beds before they leave & place the linen with the towels into a laundry bag directly. This limits the level of contact for our cleaners. Shaking these out is also discouraged. In addition, we ask guests to remove all their rubbish bags. No additional visitors are permitted to the property for obvious reasons.
How has the pandemic affected your day to day work?
Each of our 3 cottages now takes my team & I around 1 ½ hours longer to clean. As a result, we have needed to push back check-in by 30 minutes. We now make sure that everything is both cleaned and disinfected, particularly all the frequently touched points including door handles, light switches etc. With remote controls, we wipe & place them in plastic bags after cleaning.
How about PPE?
This has been a huge change & created a whole other level of waste. When you make an effort to be as sustainable & eco-friendly as possible, this hurts. We wear PPE to take all the dirty items out of the cottage after guests leave. To avoid any potential cross-contamination, we then change the PPE before we start cleaning.
Our cleaning is based on the assumption that each cottage has been occupied by someone who has a suspected case of COVID-19. We approach using PPE with that in mind. I need to ensure that my staff & myself are fully protected, as well as the cottage being thoroughly clean for the incoming guests.”
What has all this cost you in monetary terms?
The cost implications of all the changes are huge, from cancellation for refunds to the costs of PPE. Then there is the additional cost of cleaning in terms of staff hours and the products we are now using. Unfortunately, we also have the loss of business during one of our busiest seasons. We are open throughout Winter, but here in Yorkshire, it is usually much quieter. It’s when we invest the time & money in anything that needs updating on the properties. Having made these investments, we recoup it during the busy spring season. So last winter we completely renovated one of the cottage bathrooms and replaced ovens and hobs throughout, for example. But recouping these investments has not been possible this year.
We do not want to put prices up for our visitors, so the business has to shoulder the burden. In the UK we received a small business grant to help us through the lockdown, however, this & more went on to provide refunds for all the guests who we had to cancel. Thankfully most people were very understanding and just a handful were incredibly difficult.
For Scotland, see also Things To Do in The Trossachs – A One Day Road Trip
What happens if a guest becomes ill during their stay?
If anyone in the group has symptoms or has received a track & trace alert within 14 days of arriving at the cottages, we need to be informed. This extends to any guests leaving the property in the next 48 hours. Once they have arrived, if anyone has symptoms we need to know immediately. We ask them to make arrangements to travel home as soon as possible, in line with government guidance. In addition, we encourage all visitors to make sure they have travel insurance to cover any last-minute cancellations.
For obvious reasons, once they have left, if anyone becomes unwell or has symptoms of COVID-19 we also need to be informed.
What is the message you would like to convey for anyone planning their first trip away?
Be open-minded & expect that things will be different. Make sure you follow the rules & be considerate to other guests & staff. If you have been asked to do something, there is no excuse not to.
Make sure that when you leave somewhere it is clean & presentable. If you expect a venue to be safe, then it is your responsibility to reciprocate. The cleaner & tidier you leave your room, the easier & safer it will be for the staff to turn it around for the next guests.”
Stay informed of all the rules for the destination you are visiting. Things can change quickly so you need to be aware of these. If your location sends you guidelines, make sure you read & comply.
If we all work together it makes life much easier for everyone. Since we re-opened on July 4th we have been full with very happy guests who have really appreciated our efforts and are enjoying much-needed breaks, confident of their surroundings. Yes, it’s hard work for us, but its’ really gratifying to know how happy our guests are – and it is great to have them back!
I would like to say a huge THANK YOU to Tracy for all her invaluable insights & allowing me to use her gorgeous photos. I have not & will not be receiving any compensation from Low Hagg Farm for the contents of this post. But obviously, I think it’s amazing & you should visit ;).
I hope you have found this insight as helpful & confidence building as I have. I hope that one day in the future we will be able to get back to travelling freely once more. In the meantime, the most important thing is for us to stay informed on what is happening & be sympathetic to the challenges the industry is currently facing. There is no reason not to travel as long as we follow the government guidelines of our own & our destination countries. Many property owners are going through some very tough times. We wish them all the best to make it out of the situation with a flourishing business. The more we can support them now, the more choice we will have in the future.
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