While the UK is lapping up one of its best years ever for tourist numbers, one company that has found the sweet spot on the British and Irish holiday front is Natural Retreats. Fiona Klonarides meets founder Matthew Spence, the man behind a brand that is going places – from “best of British” to global in the not too distant future.
More than a few vacation club members have been breathing collective sighs of relief this year. Having paid for their holidays upfront in better times, they haven’t had to dig deep to escape to far-off shores or sneak in a week close to home.
Last year visitor numbers to Britain rocketed; ditto this year, as figures remain high. The isle we are falling in love with again isn’t a taverna-dotted gem somewhere in the Mediterranean– no, it’s our very own big, very green Britain, dramatic cliffs and all. One company that has hit the sweet spot on the UK holiday front is Natural Retreats, whose almost uncanny knack for identifying what consumers want, and where, stems from its founder Matthew Spence, who came up with the idea during a major light bulb moment during a holiday in the U.S.
While visiting Yellowstone National Park, he was struck by its natural beauty but also by the sore lack of good quality self-catering accommodation; the concept for Natural Retreats was born.
With a handpicked portfolio of eight resorts already in operation in the UK and Ireland, Natural Retreats will have twenty locations by the end of next year – and forty by the end of 2013. Guests can stay, let or exchange, the choice is theirs, and one of the standouts of the Natural Retreats experience is the concierge service. Couple that with hasslefree, low cost ownership (weeks purchased can be sold, gifted or willed, and the original investment pays for itself in a few years), you have a recipe for success.
A core part of the Natural Retreats experience is savouring the flavour of the location. The main ingredient is the resorts. Beautiful stone barn conversions in the Llyn Peninsula… glass-fronted eco homes in the Yorkshire Dales, warm, stylish and woody…Cornish beach cottages by Fistral’s salty surf…and castles with character in Ireland’s beauty spots. The icing on the cake is the attention to detail: a welcome hamper of local organic goodies including wine, juice and milk, bread, eggs, Wensleydale cheeses, muesli, fruit, Taylor’s of Harrogate tea and fresh coffee, and of course the signature service, courtesy of the company’s Concierge Team.
With details of a new resort in Lanzarote about to be announced, Matthew Spence speaks to Fiona Klonarides about how it all started, the potential for global branding, and what’s in store next.
Q: What is your background and how did the Natural Retreats story begin? What was the spark that ignited the concept and the company?
I’d spent many years working in international leisure property, which had given me the opportunity to experience some of the worlds most beautiful and luxurious destinations and it had always been in my mind that the UK really lacked outstanding accommodation in some of our most stunning natural treasures.