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Guest Case Study – Homelands

For our guest case study this week we are interviewing Simon Allan, who is the General Manager of Homelands in Fife.

Homelands Trust is an independent run charity in Fife, Lundin Links. They work to “improve the quality of life of individuals affected by disability, people with life limiting conditions and their carers, through the provision of luxury holiday accommodation.” Homelands has four accessible self-catering lodges and a drop-in centre. Three of the lodges sleep 6 people and the other sleeps 8 people.

Within the lodges that sleeps 6 people, there is one fully accessible room with a tracking hoist, full wet-room and a profiling bed with an airflow mattress. In the lodge that sleeps 8 people, there are two fully accessible rooms with the same features.

Click to visit website.
What is Homelands? What role do you play?
Homelands was established off the back of the Multiple Sclerosis society as they found “there was a lack of drive there”. Miss Isobel Paxton, who inherited the Homelands estate from her father, was a pillar of the local community with her various activities within different organisations. One of her main passions through this community work was visiting disabled people in Fife and being able to offer them what assistance she could. When Miss Paxton passed away in 1993, she left her Homelands estate and money to charity to provide holiday facilities for visitors with a range of disabilities and accessibility requirements.

Since 1998, when the Homelands trust was set-up, Miss Paxton’s wishes to help those with disabilities have stress-free holidays have continued to be pushed forward, with the Homelands holiday accommodation being officially opened in 2014.

Simon says, “I started with Homelands Trust in 2015 after retiring from previously working at cottages.com, which is a large American holiday rental company. With my background in vacation rentals I was eager to get involved as I live locally and was looking to fill my new found free time. I am the general manager which means I am in charge of the day to day operations at Homelands.”

With Simon’s expansive knowledge and experience in the holiday rental sector, the accommodation continues to grow from strength to strength – “Homelands reached 91% occupancy throughout last year, and this year has already reached 70%”.

Miss Paxton’s vision continues to be developed with Homelands always looking for ways to improve their services. They are currently planning 5 more lodges, with developments much advanced and final funding being sought.

Why is accessibility important to you?
“Miss Paxton was a great philanthropist and with several members of her family suffering from MS, this was an issue that was close to her heart. Her wish after she passed away was for people to have a truly accessible place, so they could enjoy a holiday in Lundin Links, Fife. We want to provide accommodation that is fully inclusive, and we feel there is currently a huge lack of truly accessible accommodation.”
What accessible information and features do you have?
On the Homelands website there is a lot of information provided about the accessibility of their accommodation, including additional pieces of specialist equipment that are available when visiting. There are access statements for each lodge, detailing everything you need to know from transport options, room details and what to do when you arrive.

The site benefits from its own drop-in centre, which Simon describes this “as a community hub adjacent to the lodges which houses an office for admin of the lodges and has a large room for their community café which runs 3 times a week. There are also meeting rooms which are used by local community organisations.”

Simon was delighted to reveal that there is currently another local organisation trying to create an accessible playground next door to the Homelands lodges, which would continue to enhance their fantastic holiday destination.

Why is a virtual tour important to you?
Simon’s years of experience in tourism accommodation showed a great appreciation and understanding of virtual tours, he says “they are very important as visual information is the best way to sell a place/product.” He believes that visual tours are “the ideal marketing tool as they inspire trust and transparency, they are much more than a static photo as you are able to get a better feel of a property by being able to move around yourself.” He continues by saying that “access statements were a step in the right direction, but they rarely get read, our website analytics show customers are now primarily only looking at the pictures and 360 virtual tours.”
How do you promote the venue to get new customers?
According to Simon, “at Homelands, customers generally book directly through word of mouth or care organisations”. There is only a small budget for marketing, but their high occupancy numbers are testament to the fact this doesn’t impact bookings.

There are the odd discounts which you can find on Homelands special offers page, but the lodges normally fill themselves. This is not surprising due the amazing facilities on offer and excellent reviews. If you would like to book in to Homelands or find out more information, then please follow this link.

Don’t forget to follow Homelands on Facebook and Twitter (@homelandstrust) to keep up to date on all events or offers throughout the year.

Thank you to Simon Allan, General Manager of Homelands for answering our questions and stay tuned for our next guest case study.

Follow Claire D'All:

I graduated from the University of Dundee in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Applied Computing. During my studies the field that I had a great interest in was web development however since graduating I have also become very interested in accessibility. I was born with Congenital Muscular Dystrophy and since the age of 3 I have used a wheelchair 24/7. Due to my disability I have always come across problems regarding accessibility, which is why it’s such a passion for me.

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