Business recovery stories: The Quiet Site

The Quiet Site is a family-run, carbon-neutral holiday park overlooking Ullswater in the Lake District. The site has been operating for almost 60 years, is open year-round and employs 15-20 people. It offers a range of accommodation options, from tent and caravan pitches to camping and glamping pods.

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Successfully navigating the business through the pandemic involved a number of important aspects for The Quiet Site:

1. Taking bold decisions. The business closed a week before the first lockdown announcement, and cancelled all bookings until the end of August – removing a lot of the uncertainty from the process. Customers were offered three choices: a refund, moving their booking to a later date or a credit note valid for three years. Ninety-nine percent chose a credit note or booking change.

 ‘Even when Christmas bookings had to be cancelled, we sold all the stock of the local ‘Quiet Site’ beer we’d ordered in for that period online instead’.

2. Involving the team in decision-making. The Quiet Site operates an ‘upside-down management structure’; staff have a great deal of responsibility and autonomy. So when the pandemic hit, they could confidently contribute their observations and ideas on possible steps the business needed to take, which has brought the team even closer together.

3. Operating year-round meant the business was more resilient to the impacts of the pandemic. It entered the first lockdown on the back of a strong winter season, with bills and ‘winter projects’ paid for.

4. Using technology to adapt. For the first time the site introduced contactless check-in and an app for ordering drinks in the bar, which could then be delivered direct to the table. Both have proved popular and increased efficiency and will benefit the business in the longer term.

5. Rapidly responding to emerging trends. One of the business’ core values is ‘horizon-scanning’ – identifying trends to predict where it should be in 5, 10, 20 years’ time and investing in new offers accordingly.  They used the time across the three lockdowns in 2020-2021 to plan and build new ‘Gingerbread Houses’, designed to be fully self-contained and easy to clean in response to customers’ increasingly strong preference for private facilities.

‘Having previously operated a seasonal model and now a year-round operation for 20 years, I’d never go back to the seasonal model. It’s so much easier for staffing and operations as well as being good for your relationship with the local community’.

6. Adapting to changing customer behaviour and preferences. During the pandemic, the business has seen a turbo-charging of the trend for booking at the last minute and customers deciding to stay longer if they like their accommodation once they arrive. The Quiet Site recognises the need to have a dynamic online booking system and the flexibility to accommodate last minute changes, as well as to be proactive in giving people plenty of reasons to stay longer.

7. Future-proofing the ability to trade. The Quiet Site’s zero waste shop remained open to serve local customers during lockdown, but also significantly increased its online presence and offer. This enabled it to continue trading when physically closed by law, spreading income streams, keeping staff employed and supporting local suppliers. The newest project is a takeaway pizza cabin, which will be able to serve local customers even if the site has to close again.

How other holiday parks have adapted: Gwel an Mor

Gwel an Mor, Cornwall is a luxury holiday resort on the Cornish coast. It generously made its lodges available for NHS staff to stay free of charge during lockdowns, which has been greatly appreciated by local Treliske Hospital. Many staff volunteered their time to help, from sanitising the lodges between stays through to ensuring the key workers had everything they needed, including organising free supplies and deliveries from local businesses.

A very rigorous cleaning regime was adopted from the outset, including the use of specialist fogging equipment and swabbing of each lodge after cleaning, allowing newly arrived guests to see that the property has been cleaned to medical standards.

Technology has enabled the resort to meet social distancing requirements through the introduction of a virtual check-in system and guest portal. The business has also come up with innovative ways to address significant challenges relating to one of its core markets, by offering ‘drive-in weddings’ for the summer of 2021. These events will cater for up to 70 cars, allowing guests to view a live stream on a giant outdoor screen of the ceremony taking place in one of the resort’s yurts. All guests will then be served delicious wedding fare in their cars whilst watching a film or home videos of the couple’s choice.