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  • Writer's pictureJane Brook

Spotlight: Rye & Beyond

Updated: Apr 2

During English Tourism Week we had a kitchen table chat to hospitality business owner Jacqui Maxted and social media manager Lindsay from Rye & Beyond Holiday Cottages.



1.Describe your business to us?


Rye & Beyond is a bespoke holiday cottage company. Before starting the business, I’d worked for many years in a large holiday let company and I felt that the personal element of the service was missing. At Rye and Beyond we really look after our owners, but we also give a more personalised service to guests – almost like a concierge service.  So, for example, if you’re celebrating a special occasion, or need suggestions for things to do when you’re visiting the area – we’re able to help. We’re there for everyone with a personalised touch.


2. When did you start the business?


Rye & Beyond had only just started life when the pandemic hit – our timing was impeccable! 


When I set out to start the business my goal had been to create a portfolio of ten properties – that felt like the right size, but things have really taken off for us – we currently have a portfolio of 29 properties and are about to sign up our 30th.  We’ve grown organically, we’ve never done any advertising. 


People approach us to take their properties on, but I’m in a position now where I’m able to be very tailored in our approach the business – a property absolutely needs to be the right fit for our portfolio. So, I do turn down places that aren’t right – but I’m always very careful to give considered feedback, after all it’s a reflection on us as a business, we want people to have success with renting out their properties so we will always be helpful with our advice, and it never hurts to keep doors open.


Oak House, Rye
Oak House, Rye

3. What is your background – how did it lead you to this business?


Jacqui: “I was originally in education, but subsequently had a housekeeping business for a long time before Rye & Beyond, so I had a lot of experience in the industry.


When I realised I needed an extra pair of hands with the marketing and social media side of the business Lindsay was the perfect fit.”


Lindsay: “Originally, I’d had a garden design business and from that I had diversified into property management for people who were living abroad. I’ve worked for large property management companies, but now I manage a few very large properties myself, alongside my work with Jacqui for Rye & Beyond. 


4. Tell us about the sort of people who book with you?


Our guests are mostly people from the southeast– no more than a couple of hours drive. But we do also have a high percentage of Dutch and German guests.  In fact, we’re currently talking to a Dutch company about offering packages in Holland – they’ve sought us out, not the other way around which is interesting. We think one of the reasons that the Dutch love to come over here is that they are happy to do mid-week breaks because crossing the channel is cheaper mid-week, that’s brilliant in an industry where everyone usually wants a Friday or Saturday as an arrival day.


Of those who don’t book direct with us we see bookings from Silver Surfers from Bookings.com and bookings via AirBnB are usually from younger couples and young families.  Our overseas visitors usually use Expedia.


5. What makes your business unique? 


I think it’s the personal touch. The fact that when you book or call, you’ll speak to the same person – guests feel reassured and looked after.  You haven’t booked on an anonymous website and been forwarded standardised information – we really care about your stay and want to make sure it’s exactly what you need it to be.


lovely bedroom
Property "Matchbox", Winchelsea

6. What are your business values?


Again, it comes back to excellent customer service and good relationships – with our owners, our customers and with the housekeeping companies we work with.


But overall, I’d say honesty and integrity. Those values are probably most evident when things beyond our control go wrong. For example, last summer when we had the water shortage in Rye, we spent hours driving bottled water to our guests and making sure they were ok. Guests can see the problem isn’t our fault but appreciate the efforts we made. 


We have strong repeat business, and we reward loyalty – a fourth visit to the same cottage automatically qualifies for a 5% discount. 


7. What are your plans for your business in 2024 – what are you focusing on?


We want to take more direct bookings, it’s cheaper for guests to book with us direct rather than using an online travel agent like Airbnb or Bookings.com – but some guests – particularly the older demographic still place a lot of trust in a ‘big name company’. And although we have good relationships with our account managers for those big booking platforms, it makes sense for us to grow our organic business.


8. What are the challenges your business faces this year?


Bookings for the first quarter of this year have been a lot slower to come in – I think most of the accommodation businesses are finding the same thing. I think the big challenge at the moment is that the industry has shifted significantly towards last minute bookings. 


Not having bookings in the calendar well ahead of time can make owners jittery. We of course have data to refer to and patterns of bookings over time tend to help reassure. The overall volume of bookings is holding steady – they just have much shorter lead times.


I think another challenge is having our business sit alongside those who operate one or two of their own Airbnb’s because they think it will be easy income and they can just ‘have a go’. It’s not an easy business to do well, and to the levels of customer satisfaction that we pride ourselves on. Maintaining properties for holiday letting is difficult particularly if you’re dealing with period homes and listed properties like we often are in Rye.  It’s important that potential guests understand that the sort of service we offer very much sets us apart from those who are trying to make a ‘quick buck’ with a holiday let. 


9. What are you most proud of in your business?


I think we’re enormously proud of having survived the pandemic, that’s no small achievement it itself. 


I think we’re also proud of running a business in Rye. It’s such an amazing town and there are so many other women in business it’s great to be part of that community. We love getting to know people locally.


When Lindsay first came on board, I was initially worried that, having run her own businesses for such a long time, that she wouldn’t be comfortable working for me, but I needn’t have worried – we’re a great fit. We’re both Virgos for starters!  But I use Lindsay as a sounding board for ideas, and she checks in on me, which is valuable as a business owner because sometimes you get so close to it all you forget to check you’re doing ok yourself.


10. If there was one piece of advice you wish you’d had been given when you opened your business what would it be?


That you can’t do it all. 

We both come from similar backgrounds – we’re used to being self-reliant and pushing on, so we’re good for each other – making sure we don’t spread ourselves too thinly.



11. The biggest change you’ve seen to your business or your business sector since you started?

Stays are also shorter – we used to see more week / fortnight bookings but now two – four nights is much more the industry standard.   Our German guests still like to book for a two week stay, but it’s less common with UK guests.

Expectations from guests have changed – particularly since Covid – and so managing those realistically and sensitively is always a challenge, but that’s the nature of the game!


Want us to do a Spotlight feature on your business? Contact us today! 01797 222857.

 

Check out the Rye & Beyond Website and their Instagram to learn more.

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