What a rollercoaster year this has been for us and for this island we call home, the UK. Tumultuous politically, financially and economically, it won’t be easily forgotten. But before we get lost in the gloom, we instead, wanted to share some of our ‘best bits’ of 2022. This is a look behind the scenes and a moment to say ‘thank you’ to those of you who have shared our boat, or perhaps more seasonally, our sleigh, this year.
Back in January still in the cautious throes of that pandemic thing, we, myself, Rowena, and Nicky, thought 2022 would be all about the road back to ‘normality’ for the travel trade. Guests would do their thing at the time they had always done it – booking, arriving, departing and re-booking whilst we, as keepers of the keys to those front doors would manage, sort and organise as we always had. Well, yes that’s what it was, but so much more. It’s been much more of a ride than anything that happened pre 2020 and trying to compare it with something else seems a bit fruitless. We’ve taken every month as it’s come and we don’t rely on what were previously predictable patterns of behaviour. We’ve learnt to embrace the new and now whether that’s trying to figure out booking trends or the challenges around finding some help for our owners and servicing their holiday homes. Boring it hasn’t been.
One item on the 2022 ‘to do’ list was to evolve the Bloom Stays website into a slicker, faster version of itself. It wasn’t without its growing pains, as Emma, our marketing manager and head of website, has the grey hairs to prove it (not really); but just last week it went live and the team went out for a huge drink. Clearer brighter maps, better booking tools and easier payments lie ahead and more importantly for us, more direct bookings which will grow our brand loyalty. We were always about sharing brilliant houses with similarly minded Kent loving staycationers (is that a word?) and the website is where that starts.
Emma’s best bit of 2022? The summer events by a long way. July saw the team hosting the Muddy Stilettoes Kent awards at Great Higham (LINK) Barn near Faversham. In the course of a day we all pitched in to arrange flowers, set up the bar, sort the music and generally get it in party mode. Emma outshone us all with a brilliantly home-made Bloom Stays sign whilst on the day she videoed and edited social media films, poured drinks and charmed other Kent businesses almost simultaneously.
We love a chat at Bloom Stays and besides the website being our pampered pet of 2022; our real talent is in making sure our guests feel informed and happy about where they’re off to. Liz, who looks after our bookings is rarely off the phone and its, in part, down to her hard work and sunny manner that our guests feel looked after so well. Need a cake in a hurry for a special birthday? Or a cab from Cranbrook on a wet Wednesday? She’s on it. Dinner in Dungeness? Lunch in Lymphe? She’ll find it. She also has claims to dress fame by (apparently) wearing the same very frock to the Bloom Summer trip out that had previously been owned by Eddie Izzard. We’re not going for evidence on this one, suffice to say Liz loves dining out on a bit of showbiz gossip.
Of course our houses are the real stars of our show and in Michaeala we have a dedicated property manager who just loves her job. Her magic lies in her ability to organise, soothe and persuade in buckets and this year, with more than 40 houses joining Bloom Stays, Michaeala has made the best use of her little black book – her ‘supporting cast’ – to bring those houses up to Bloom Stays’ standards. When the storms hit in February it was Michaeala who could summon an army of trades to help patch up and mend chimney pots, windows and blown away fences. We’re thinking of adopting her at home currently.
Our newest member (Bloomer?), Daisy, has been the quiet but mighty power behind Bloom Stays’ social media success in the second half of 2022. She’s still a student but she’s taught us all so much about the wonderful world of TikTok that we’ll miss her talents when she shares her time with another business as part of her studies from January. So it’s only a partial goodbye but a full on thanks from all of us. We think you’ll go far.
For us we’ve delighted in the growth of Bloom Stays from around 50 houses in late 2021 to our one hundredth house, Waters Edge at Greatstone, which has just launched this week. It’s a hugely significant milestone (one of my best things about 2022) and made sweeter by it coming at the end of a year that has been a feast of fantastic moments.
This year (and just the ones I can remember through the sherry-induced seasonal fog) Nicky and I have opened the new ‘home’ of Bloom Stays in Canterbury, our own office, hot desk working space and entertaining hub all rolled into one. Apart from the game of car tetris we regularly play in the car park, it couldn’t be a better expression of what we wanted for Bloom Stays and says so much about our commitment to Canterbury and the small business community here.
Besides setting up the office we’ve hosted online and face to face owner events; travelled thousands of miles across this garden of England to see houses and owners; we’ve helped guests all day, all night and all weekend; our houses have hosted a few pop stars (no names); the team have organised photoshoots and social media reels; we’ve taken part in some really exciting TV shows with national and international shows and literally kept the Canterbury branches of various homewares stores in business with just another throw, towel set, nightlight or whatever we have needed in order to get a property open for business. Our twice weekly team fitness sessions have lifted our spirits and brought us (exhaustingly) together and we’ve also managed a summer paddleboarding session on the hottest day of the year and a wintry wreath making lesson on the basis that if we offer it to guests, we’d better have a go at it first.
Besides all this an unforgettable moment of the summer for me was being reunited with the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance Crew in Redhill who helped me out in 2020 when I was involved in a particularly nasty car accident. As a company through our work with them and our delicious team cake sale for Macmillan Cancer relief in September we’ve donated over £2000 to be split between both.
For Nicky, her one of her top memories was when she found out exactly how many owners took their cats with them on holiday (no figures exactly but enough to be notable- and that’s not counting those who took rabbits, birds, chinchillas… you name it). It’s the small things (literally) Nicky. Her other must mention moment was the huge party she and her family threw at a Bloom Stays house, Great Higham, in the summer to celebrate a round of significant anniversaries and birthdays. Busman’s holiday it may have been, but she loved crossing over to the other side for a few nights.
And 2023? We’ve got a new recruit to the Bloom Stays team dedicated to looking after our owners… we’ll reveal more soon. We expect we’ll see high demand for summer bookings for all our houses but especially those for larger groups; there won’t be any dimming in the trend for a great house party but let’s hope the summer weather lives up to where we left it in 2022. Last minute bookings will still be strong especially as we emerge from the winter, which, for the sake of all our energy bills, we hope will be kind and mild (no more mention of the doom and gloom, promise).
So it’s a huge thank you from us to you for helping everyone have a brilliant time on holiday in Kent. Merry Christmas and many happy and healthy days ahead to you and yours.