3 March 2000

Man of ideas to boost farm holiday image…

FARMERS have the publics sympathy at the moment and now is exactly the right time to come in to promote farm holidays, says Nigel Embrey, the new chief executive of the Farm Holiday Bureau.

And promote them he will for here is a man who has made a career in the tourist industry. He has been director of Cumbria Tourist Board, worked on the Tourist Board of the strongest area for tourism in England – the south east – and comes to the FHB fresh from working with Best Weston Hotels.

"I have spent the last nine years running Best Western – the top consortium of private hotels. It was also really a membership body," says Mr Embrey, who left Best Weston after opposing a merger with Consort Hotels. He comes to the FHB brimming with commercial ideas.

He has started by revitalising the logo – giving it a clearer image and updated type face. "Hopefully you will see this on farm gates and publications. It will identify the brand and give it a more modern image," says Mr Embrey. "We have to move forward like any business – we have to evolve."

&#42 Web site

Next on the list is the FHB web site. "We are looking to build a new one that is really consumer friendly so that even the most non-technical person will use it and make a booking." Every FHB member with their own pc at home and on-line is a goal he would like to achieve.

At present the annual FHB guide Stay on a Farm is where most people find out about members accommodation. "Anyone who spends almost £8 on a guide will probably make a booking but having spent that much they wont be passing the guide on to anyone else and that restricts the market. If you go to a travel agent you can pick up a range of guides at no cost and what we have to do is provide a full colour brochure free of charge.

"We also need to run adverts with a freephone or local call rate number on them and I want to service enquiries from these with a brochure on the customers doorstep within 48 hours. At present people baulk when you ask them to send money for a guide.

"We have got to get a customer friendly package in place – just because we are farm accommodation it doesnt mean we have to be more backward than anyone else."

Super-break offers marketed at home and abroad and packages with tie-ins to local attractions are other avenues he is exploring and he feels that business travellers are a market with potential.

&#42 Part to play

"The FHB has a part to play in servicing the business sector. There is a shortage of accommodation for business travellers, particularly in the south east, and we have to give out the message that staying on a farm doesnt mean standing around in mud."

"Certainly we should promote our farm accommodation as a peaceful idyll with personal service provided by independent people in the place which is their home, their business, their livelihood. They want guests to come back and their priority is to provide good food and facilities," says Mr Embrey.

He is full of enthusiasm for the FHB and knows that members have to watch expenditure in these hard times for farming. "The new packages need not be more expensive than what has been done in the past and I will be casting round for some seed-corn funding for them," he says assuringly.

Tessa Gates

Farm Holiday Bureau now has

a full time chief executive,

Nigel Embrey – and new logo.