Humphrey Bowles, owner of Park Farm Barn, talks family friendly, goats and lockdown projects
Having a unique selling point (USP) is important for any business. It gives you an edge. A reason for people to book with you.
It can be anything from themed rooms, the view, additional experiences or something entirely different.
Humphrey’s USP derives from a group of three kindly personalities:
Harry, Barry and Larry.
Who are they? Maybe their alternative names, decided by Humphrey’s daughter, might give you a clue: Twinkle Toes, Lime and Lawrence.
In case you haven’t already guessed, these three are not humans. In fact, they are three very friendly goats.
“We look after them ourselves and these ones are all hand reared on bottles, so they’re even friendlier than the friendliest of goats,” said Humphrey.
“The goats are next door to the barn and means that families that come to stay with us essentially have a petting zoo whenever they like.
“We can give them a completely new and different experience which is going to be ‘Come and have tea or breakfast with the goats’ and luckily they’re very friendly goats,” laughed Humphrey.
“They love eating and everyone should get on fairly well together!”
Park Farm Barn is one of the oldest barns in their neighbourhood, which has been tucked away in Bowlish, Somerset since the 14th century.
“We’re just a few minutes outside of Wales and Bath is about 30 minutes away. Bristol is not too far away and the seaside is pretty close as well.
“Locally, we’ve also got Glastonbury, which surprisingly has a lot more going on than just the festival once a year. And then there’s Longleat Safari Park and so much more, so it’s all fab and family friendly around here.”
2020 was a quiet (and stressful) year for the hospitality industry, but Humphrey endeavoured to make the most of the lockdowns and threw himself into his hospitality projects. Humphrey said: “The first lockdown project was to renovate the barn and we actually split it into two, so we’ve got the Sheep Shack and Park Farm Barn.
“And then as another lockdown project [in November], we had no one staying, so we could do fun things like dig up the driveway and we’re trying to turn the next little project, the Shepherd’s Hut, into another little apartment as well.
“We’re just starting to convert a little stone shepherd cabin at the top of the hill and that’s in the field where our goats are based.
“We’ve spent a lot of time and effort and love in converting the barn.”
Humphrey has worked hard to provide family friendly lodgings.
“By having families come to stay, you’re really increasing your occupancy and that was the main reason why we decided to make ours as child friendly as possible.
“We just wanted to take advantage of that market. I’ve been involved in the short-term rental business for quite a long time, so we know how great a boost to business families are.”
He added: “So far our occupancy has been around 96%, which we’re pretty happy with considering the circumstances. And we think that by being family friendly and dog friendly, we open ourselves up to a bigger pool of potential guests and (hopefully) get more bookings.”
Park Farm Barn can sleep up to six people and has its own mezzanine level that has proved popular with the families that have come to stay.
“We’ve had quite a few teenagers refer to it as ‘the treehouse’ which is pretty cool. It’s like a little teenage hideout up there. And of course we have a nice, proper comfy bedroom for mum and dad as well as a nice big bedroom for when grandma and grandpa come too.”
As you can see, Humphrey is no stranger to hosting families, and he says “having essentials like high chairs, nappy bins, and kids cutlery” is a must.
“When we say family friendly, we mean things like, having space for people to leave their bikes, having an outdoor area for kids to run around, a trampoline to bounce on, and in our case, really friendly, calm goats to stroke.”
Humphrey laughed and said: “Everyone looks for comfort, for something a bit different to what they have at home. Having a quirky property and a little stand out feature which people are going to remember is a really helpful thing to have.”
He added: “People want things to be accessible, easy and uncomplicated, as well as space for the kids to hang out and be outside. We want people who come to stay to get out and about. We want them to explore the local area.
“Whether there’s a pandemic or not, people like privacy and space and if they’ve come as a family, that’s who they are looking to spend their time with. So we like setting them up so they know what they’re doing and then letting them get on with it, doing as much as they want to and giving them tools to do that easily.”
Humphrey believes that all the little things they offer beyond a comfy bed helps to bring in more bookings.
“Everyone’s thinking of where they’re going to go and stay and if you can offer, to use Bake Off lingo, a showstopper, that’s really going to help capture attention.”
Humphrey believes being family friendly and having a quirky USP is a great way to increase the pool of potential guests.
Humphrey added: “At the end of the day, if you want to increase direct bookings, not only do you need to list on multiple sites, but you need to be pretty enthusiastic and flexible too, and one of the best ways of getting more bookings is to be family friendly.
“Being family friendly just massively increases the pool of people who are likely to come and stay.”
This article was first published in Issue 44 of the Luxury BnB Magazine in January 2021: