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Success set to stay with top self-catering company

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 21, 2012

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Toad Hall Cottages in Devon has managed to buck the Westcountry's stuttering tourism trends by continuing to record positive growth figures.

The business, based in Kingsbridge and ranked at 56 on the Fast Growth list, is one of the leading providers of self-catering holiday accommodation in the South West, and the success shows no signs of letting up.

With a portfolio of more than 650 properties in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Dorset and the New Forest, the holiday company has managed to increase bookings this year to maintain its position as one of the largest holiday lets firms in the country.

Since its formation in 1988, Toad Hall Cottages has seen rapid growth across the company. It now employs 34 people across three sites in Kingsbridge, Polperro and Lymington, in Hampshire, compared with the six staff it had in 1999.

Company director David Hanmer founded the business after purchasing a smaller agency with 30 properties. Now the company boasts more than 500 properties in Westcountry locations such as Salcombe, Dartmouth, and Looe.

Mr Hanmer said: "This year has been the toughest year since the foot and mouth crisis in 2001, but sales are still up by a few per cent.

"The self-catering industry has remained fairly resilient in hard times. It is an industry which continues to buck the national trends," he added. Growth has been particularly noticeable over the past three years, with acquisitions of several smaller agencies to increase the portfolio and reach of the business.

Heavy investment has been made in recent years, including rebranding of the entire company. One part of that investment is the new website, which has taken three years of development. It is hoped the site will be the key driver of growth in the future.

Mr Hanmer said: "Three factors have affected us this year: the wet weather, the Olympics and late bookings. But it was a strange year because we still generated plenty of bookings eventually."

He said the success was partly down to having a "memorable" name.

"People remember us, remember the lovely properties they stayed in, and come back year-on-year. Some people return three, four or five times a year from the home counties, West Midlands, South Wales and Bristol."

The company claims to bring an additional 23,000 visitors to the region each year, who make use of shops, bars and restaurants to boost the local economy.

Mr Hanmer said: "The tourism industry is especially key to the South West and many businesses rely on that annual influx of visitors."

He added: "We are ambitious about the future. We want to offer more houses for short breaks in the prime locations."

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