Supplier Showcase: HF Holidays
Date Posted: 29/06/2015
As a major provider of walking and activity holidays, HF Holidays has a history of 100 years. Now it’s set its sights on the next century of innovation.
When Thomas Arthur Leonard made the first moves to establish HF Holidays back in the 19th century, it’s no pun to stay he was steps ahead of any of his peers. Leonard was a social reformer and pioneer of the outdoor walking and activity movement in the UK. His overarching goal was to get people experiencing nature in ways they had never done before.
More than a century later and HF Holidays is following a similar path. In the past 100 years, the company has consistently innovated, first to become one of the first overseas tour operators in the UK, then to be one of the earliest to create themed holidays. Now, it’s leading the way again with a fresh approach to group holidays that means it’s not just the group as a whole that’s given the tailor-made service, but every individual within it, too.
“Recently, we have seen a desire for more choice and flexibility on our breaks,” said Emma Beattie, groups development manager at HF Holidays. “We are not just seeing groups of all walkers or all special interest; within a break we are now offering walking to some of the group whilst the rest of the group might be doing something else.”
This is where HF Holidays’ groups team come in. The company has had a dedicated groups department for 25 years, and there are now seven experts in it. The team handles more than 400 group holidays every year to destinations all around the world – from a guided walking break in the Lake District to a cycling holiday in Cuba.
Pictured: The HF Holidays Groups Team.
Each booking is account managed from beginning to end and the team deal with enquiries from everyone from traditional walking groups to specialist meditation, celebration and bridge parties. Trips are tailored to all manner of themes, from yoga and pilates to rambling with a sketchbook. The team has also just been awarded five stars from Which? for its customer service.
“It is not about offering a good service, but a great one and we do that by treating everyone on an individual basis, offering flexibility, listening to our organisers and having open communication with our properties,” said Emma. “The devil is in the detail.
“Our organisers are looked after from their first phone call to their welcome home. We have a really experienced hands-on team at our support centre in London and also our house managers at each location who pride themselves in getting it just right.”
HF Holidays’ newest product even lets groups tailor their holiday in real time. The company has introduced a series of Discovery Points for guests on self-guided walking breaks in the UK to help them discover the local area in more depth, according to their interests. Each Discovery Point contains a selection of laminated route cards, a library of maps, guidebooks and local information, which can be used according to taste.
Pictured: A HF Holidays Discover Point.
Responsible Tourism is another area where HF Holidays is leading the way. The company supports a range of projects that help to protect the environment and improve access to the countryside for future generations to enjoy. These include Mountain Rescue, Air Ambulance, John Muir Trust, and BMC.
“Our policy is to use local transport, accommodation and activity providers to distribute economic benefit to the communities visited,” said Emma. “Bringing people together through memorable holidays in the UK and around the world, is what we do. We recognise that action is needed to protect and preserve the destinations we visit. We want to lead the way in developing holidays that are truly sustainable.”
And just as Thomas Arthur Leonard endeavoured to make the outdoors accessible for all a century ago, HF Holidays does the same today through it Pathways Fund project. For the past 50 years, this incentive has provided assisted holidays to those who could not afford one.
“This is achieved through generous donations from HF Holidays’ members and guests,” said Emma. “Last year alone we raised over £30,000 with the help from members, guests and corporate donations.”
The company has also teamed up with the Family Holiday Association to provide Feel Good Breaks, which aredesigned to reward urban families with the gift of a break away in the outdoors, and the chance to spend quality time together and to meet other families
So what about the next century? HF Holidays is a co-operative, so it’s unlikely that its 36,000 members are going to want to change the philosophy behind the company any time soon. All profits are re-invested into improving the holidays on offer.
“Recently, we have seen a record number of guests choosing to join us on walking and leisure activity holidays across Europe and the rest of the world,” explained Emma. “This growth is testament to the maturity of our offering, and it’s resonant of the growing demand amongst the UK population to go out and see the world on foot.”
The HF Holidays Timeline
1891: HF Holidays founder Thomas Arthur Leonard took 30 people from Blackburn on a ‘strenuous and simple’ group walking trip to Ambleside in the Lake District.
1914: Leonard’s Holiday Fellowship offers holidays abroad, making it one of Britain’s very first overseas tour operators. The first abroad holidays were to Kelkheim in Germany.
1959: First publication of 'Holidays that are Different' brochure, which contained holidays ranging from pony trekking and golf to photography, sketching and 'old-time' dancing. This collection has evolved over the years and the ‘Leisure Activities’ brochure now contains almost 200 different holidays.
1989: The first Worldwide brochure is launched with long-haul destinations including the Canadian Rockies, New Zealand and the USA National Parks. These holidays have grown rapidly in popularity and now encompass 40 destinations in all corners of the globe.
2013: Prince Charles was given a tour of Thorns Hall, Sedbergh to celebrate HF Holidays centenary.
My favourite place
Alex Greenwood, business development manager: Conistonwater is an all-time favourite of mine. Trips here are led by our amazing house manager, John. This National Trust property in the heart of the Lakes is perfect if you like Beatrix Potter or climbing the Old Man of Coniston. I like both!
Sari Dell, group executive: Jordan was a magical experience not just because of my donkey ride along one of their dusty roads! Something I will never forget for many reasons! The people were so welcoming and the scenery was breath-taking – I was fascinated by how much can be packed into such a small place.
Emma Beattie, group development manager: I was overwhelmed recently when I visited Freshwater Bay on the Isle of Wight with my family, what a location! Such amazing views and a sense of calmness that helped us relax immediately, with so many options of things to do, I can see why it is a real hit with our organisers. After spending the day walking the Tennyson Trail, my glass of wine went down very well whilst star-gazing!