Located on the banks of the River Leven which flows directly from Lake Windermere and 15 minutes from Bowness, is The Lakeland Village. The club has just re-joined TATOC.
Sharetime asked committee chairman Wally Francis and resort manager Richard Guzinski how the resort has fared during this challenging time for independent, legacy timeshare resorts in Europe.
- 47 properties divided into 22 one-bedroom, 23 two-bedroom and two three-bedroom units;
- 1,363 fixed-week timeshare owners cared for by 11 full-time staff and approximately 40 casual/weekend staff; and
- Facilities on site include a leisure club with 20-metre pool, whirlpool bath, sauna, steam room, squash court, fully equipped gym and Elemis Spa. There is a tennis court and children’s play area while the adjoining Whitewater Hotel offers bar and restaurant facilities with specific deals for our guests.
What is the history of The Lakeland Village?
The whole site was once a paper and cotton mill and in the 1900s was used to make ‘Ultramarine Blue’ – a laundry additive known as Dolly Blue. The timeshare resort opened in 1984 with the lease expiring in 2063.
How has timeshare at your resort fared over the past five years?
It is fair to say that we, like other resorts, have seen a change as our ownership gets older and for various reasons more and more owners have chosen to give up their weeks.
We see this situation as an opportunity rather than a challenge. As more weeks have come back into the ownership of the club, we can now be much more flexible about utilising available inventory.
How do you keep your product attractive while still making ownership financially viable?
We have a committed team who work hard to maintain the resort to a very high standard, as well as an annual programme of preventative maintenance.
We are also very proactive in offering all our guests added value, whether it be in the form of providing vital local information or partner benefits such as discounted access to major tourist attractions.
Why you think you have succeeded?
Success is a journey, not a destination. We have a lot of work to do in terms of meeting current demands such as the need to offer a flexible holiday alternative, but we are on the right path.
In terms of our offering we continue to maintain the whole site to a very high standard and encourage a pro-active approach in engaging our owners. We also have a knowledgeable, highly experienced and friendly team here.
Has the ‘U.K. staycation’ had an impact on your sales and rentals?
Yes it has. While we put a lot of energy into a successful rental programme, sales are, of course, on going as we are in one of the most attractive destinations in the U.K. People visit Cumbria and the Lake District all year round, so we are very positive about the future.
What sets you apart from your local hospitality competitors?
Most of our local competitors are hotels. The self-catering option we offer allows people much more freedom – a home away from home in essence.
Our fabulous riverside location gives us an advantage over other similar resorts in The Lakes, and I believe we offer our guests greater value.
You have a resort website – how does this support your business?
We are about to undergo an overhaul of our website to meet the demands of tech-savvy holiday seekers. The site needs to reflect how we are changing as a holiday destination what people can expect when they stay with us.
Do you use TripAdvisor or any other forms of social media to promote your resort?
Yes, but not enough. People don’t seem to review ‘self catering’ as much as hotels – but we have to change this by encouraging all to post reviews. We need to make our Facebook page (TheLakelandVillage) much more proactive as a marketing tool – not just a social commentary toy.
How has the marketing and sales approach changed over the years?
A quick response is to say …it has had to. In more recent years, as the occupancy levels have slowed down, we have had to be more pro-active. Initially it was thought the gap could/would be filled with sales alone. We now know that a bigger percentage of our sales and marketing will be spent on attracting a higher proportion of rentals.
Do you offer a re-sale and rental programme to your owners – how does this work and is it successful?
Owners get first bite of any opportunities. Rather than publish detailed lists, we indicate availability in the welcome packs. We have had great success with some ‘owners only’ deals. These include heavily discounted ‘winter warmer’ weeks and another offer exclusive to owners where additional weeks can be rented for just the management fee instead of the listed rental price.
How do you market and sell any remaining weeks and promote the resort in general?
In the past we relied on internal efforts.. More recently we’ve e-blasts, reader offers in newspapers, through third parties such as Booking.com, and our own website. We are actively pursuing new areas for rentals and are going to launch a targeted sales campaign for the re-sale of weeks.
How do you fund and manage refurbishment at the resort?
Each year at budget time we set our replacement fund figure, which is based on historical activity and a wish list derived from unit/site inspections.
Part of this funding comes of course from the annual management fees. A separate figure is set-aside for the unknown, which basically covers repairs, breakdowns and so on.
What are your plans for the future?
We are very positive and will continue to remain flexible to take advantage of an increasing rental market. We are currently exploring new ideas to ensure that sales of weeks do not become a thing of the past.
One important step we soon have to take is to look at bringing superfast broadband to all our units.
As a resort what are you most proud of?
We still have a loyal customer base who enjoy coming back year after year - some more than once a year. Our standards of cleanliness and maintenance are always commented on, and the fact that we are now in our 32nd year of providing a unique holiday experience for all who choose to stay with us.
How important is your owners’ committee to your business activities?
Very important - most of the committee members, past and present, have owned here from the beginning, so they have a vested interest in making sure any decisions taken are in the best interests of the club.
What do you think the future is for timeshare in general?
We can’t get away from using THE word but maybe timeshare is no longer appropriate on its own. We believe that ‘timeshare’ resorts like ours will continue to exist, but the original concept has been/will be overtaken by a different animal.
That is because we all have to move with the times, and the world and those who live in it now want, indeed expect, a more exciting, last- minute, user friendly, book now arrive tomorrow experience.
Why did you decide to re-join TATOC?
The chairman of our owners club committee, Wally Francis, was invited to attend to the 2014 TATOC conference. He was hugely impressed and advised the committee that we should rejoin, which we did in autumn 2014. One of our previous committee chairmen was Peter Purdon, who was involved in setting up TATOC…