As part of the research for the upcoming book, ‘The Profitable Farmstay‘, I had a chance to interview Marie Palmer and Paul Hancock, the awesome hosts who run the Penhaven Farm Stay and Tour in New Zealand.

The reason why this interview is very special is because of the important lesson learned from them. They put higher focus on the joy of hosting above profits. Interestingly, the most important ingredient for any farmstay’s success is customer delight and Penhaven scores brilliantly here.

This is such an eye-opening conversation. Please do read them and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

1) I love that you put higher emphasis on customer delight over profitability. This is markedly different thought. How did you make this your motto?

We are fortunate enough to have started our Farm Stay venture later in life (when we retired) where we are striving for a peaceful life meeting new people with no stress in doing so. The pleasure to have guests staying forefront, a pleasure not a chore, to prepare for their stay.

Penhaven Farmstay

2) You started Penhaven over 20 years ago. How did you get started with your farmstay business? What inspired you to combine farming with hospitality?

We have lived on our farm as a married couple for 30 years, I have lived on the farm since I was 8 years old. We in a way took our home for granted. But overseas work friends opened our eyes to the true paradise we had and we began to appreciate the natural beauty of home. We got a real thrill from seeing other people’s joy and excitement in our home, our view and our friendly pet animals. I love looking after and caring for people, I was a primary school teacher. So we decided, why not share our bit of NZ paradise with overseas guests. We love nothing more when we are traveling to meet and be with local people to really feel the country- we could give this to people visiting NZ! So Penhaven Farm Stay began in 2019.

3) What are the unique features or experiences that set your farmstay apart from others?

We are genuinely in love with our land and animals and this comes across easily to our guests. We care for our land and it cares and provides for us.

We love sharing our home and are genuinely interested in other people’s lives, thoughts and ideas.
Our pets are calm and friendly and loving, our guests enjoy touching each of our pets and interacting with them- chickens, turkey, sheep, cow, deer, and goat.

We are striving to be self sufficient and grow our own fruit, vegetables and nuts, we do not buy any. We make our own bread, biscuits, cake, crackers, meusli, jams, chutney, relish, cordials, bottled fruit, sauces and soup. We try not to buy anything in plastic wrap. We walk guests through our gardens, letting them harvest, taste and see our large range if produce.

Our guests share dinner with us, share travel stories, spend a lot of time with guests and they are our only guests, we only take one booking at a time.
Our guests arrive with a handshake and leave on a hug.πŸ₯°

Much communication before they arrive, sharing travel suggestions things to do/see in NZ, dietary requirements etc

4) Could you describe a typical day for guests staying at your farm?

Arrive in afternoon
Welcomed by us with afternoon tea (home made muffins or biscuits and drink), shown to their room, where a wee home made welcome gift awaits.

Then off for a farm tour with us, seeing our produce gardens, tasting seasonal produce, walking through our calf rearing shed and learning our system, our seed growing area, walking down the farm to the various paddocks to go in and see and touch our fur family, visit chicken house and collect eggs.

Then, back to house. In evening sit with guests to enjoy view from lounge with home made snacks and drink before we enjoy dinner together.

In the morning the guests enjoy a farm produce breakfast, then a quick revisit yo any part of farm they wish before a hug and thank you goodbye.

5) What strategies do you use to ensure a memorable and enjoyable experience for your guests?

We are always genuinely happy and excited to meet our guests,
Harvesting, seeing how we grow our own produce, eat in season
We listen to what interests them, ask questions about them.
We treat them as friends not strangers from the start, with respect, warmth and care.

6) What do you think is the key to running a profitable farmstay operation while maintaining authenticity and sustainability?

We don’t do back to back, control number of guests in a week, no hesitation to close for holiday or personal social events. We wznt to remember all our guests! We are not interested in full capacity but full contentment from our guests!

Keep forefront in our minds, each lot of guests are unique, special and wonderful to have stay! We eat seasonally, we use what we have, we do what we say! We share our love, respect and care for our land and hope they take that with them.

7) How do you attract guests to your farmstay? What specific strategies has worked the best for you to increase the bookings.

We are genuine and show that through our photos, our website is simple but clear!
Can book either through pur website or Booking.Com- their choice.

On Facebook and Instagram we share our daily life. We are open!!πŸ₯°πŸ€ 

We do not over promote or over promise! I like the fact that guests arrive and still get a wow factor!

8) How do you stay connected and maintain relationship with guests who have stayed with you?

Whatsapp and email with those that have become life long friends . During our travels have visited numerous past guests in their homes. 🀩

We have one woman guest from 2019 (stayed with us with 2 other family members) that have kept in contact with, we spent time with her in their homeland, Singapore last year and she and her partner are visiting us and staying as friends ( ie not paying) this AprilπŸ₯°

Regards Marie Palmer and Paul Hancock
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