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Against All Odds: How We Launched Our Luxury Travel Business Amid COVID-19, Survived and Thrived

2020 was a scary year. The COVID-19 pandemic took away many loved ones, sent the global economy into a tailspin and left many businesses struggling to stay afloat. It was hard enough to keep an established business open once the world shut down to curb the spread of the disease, and it was even more challenging to launch one.

2020 happened to be the same year we launched English Cottage Vacation – even though the travel industry was one of the most negatively impacted by COVID. With flights grounded and the world on lockdown, it seemed unfathomable that a luxury vacation package would take root let alone flourish.

But it did! So here’s our story…

The Launch

Photo of English Cottage Vacation's Well Cottage in Dorset launched during the COVID pandemicBefore we put English Cottage Vacation out into the world, we spent years visualising, researching and planning this huge dream of ours. At the time, Nathan and I worked on yachts together, running them and providing charters for our wonderful guests. But juggling work along with advancing the English Cottage Vacation vision meant lots of long hours, especially once we got the ball rolling on making our dream a reality. 

The first big hurdle we encountered was the need for a property to call our own, to host English Cottage Vacation. This was the most challenging part of launching our business. Some of the properties that could have been a good fit required too much work to get them to the standard we wanted. And with our jobs on yachts at the time, we simply didn’t have the time or resources to take this on. 

Eventually, we found Well Cottage, which was even better than we’d hoped for. After some renovations, designing a few brochures and sharing the English Cottage Vacation concept with friends and guests on our charters, we started taking bookings.

COVID Impact

Then COVID hit and the world turned upside down. All the bookings we got had to be rescheduled up until August 2021, and some were outright cancelled. Even though there was no clear end to the pandemic in sight, we kept moving forward with hope and adapting to the changes as we went along. 

Due to lockdowns, some of our charters were also cancelled, which meant we had to head home earlier. On the one hand, it allowed more time to work on renovating our cottage, but on the other, it meant we had to work with a much tighter budget and couldn’t spend as much as we initially planned to on marketing our product. 

Like many companies that had to reimagine their business model to fit into this new and uncertain world, we made a few changes to our business plan to adapt. Initially, English Cottage Vacation was one product — a bespoke vacation tailored to each guest. It fit the US market perfectly as they would get more out of a trip to the UK and an itinerary packed with a variety of adventures unique to the English countryside of Dorset. 

But once quarantine happened and our US clients couldn’t travel over, we launched a staycation product instead to accommodate the locals and encourage them to vacation with us. This product took out all the itinerary options, leaving food and drinks, in-house spa treatments and the freedom for guests to go out and explore on their own however they liked. 

Even though COVID got in the way of our original plans, it led us to new opportunities like the high-end wellness retreats that we’re so passionate about for their enriching benefits to the mind, body and soul. 

What We Learned From It All

It was tempting to give up when the pandemic kept going on and on and we got lockdown after lockdown, endless quarantines and travel bans. But through it all, we held on to hope that things would change and everything would work out for our good in the end. 

We truly believe that English Cottage Vacation is where it is today because of that mindset; and the fact that our product is an experience of a lifetime, unlike anything else available right now. 

For anyone thinking of starting a business but holding back because of fear of failing or feeling like the timing isn’t right, we hope English Cottage Vacation can be an inspiration and a beacon of hope. There’s no time like the present to get started on your dreams.

Follow your heart and if you start to feel doubt or fear, ask yourself what you’d regret more – if you try and fail or if you don’t try at all? While you’re pondering your idea and fantasising about your dream, why not pay us a little visit and see how taking a risk can actually work out? Maybe you’ll feel inspired or get a renewed sense of hope while we serve and pamper you all day. Contact us and book your spot to enjoy our appanage holiday of a lifetime.