In 2018, we sold this lovely couple from The Netherlands an existing business with holiday accommodation on the outskirts of Durcal in the Lecrin Valley. Eighteen months later, we pay them a visit to see how they have found working and living in Spain and dealing with the unfortunate current circumstances with the Covid travel restrictions.
What made you leave the Netherlands and move to Spain?
In the year 2000, we went on holiday to Spain for the first time and in 2001, friends of ours bought a holiday home in the Alicante region and we have been visiting them every year ever since. Even during one of the first visits, we already felt we belonged there; the beautiful weather and the relaxed character of the Spaniards just made us long for a life in Spain.
In the Netherlands, we started an events company for private and tailor-made parties, which we ran alongside our day jobs. We enjoyed it so much that we decided to start something in the hospitality sector in Spain, because interaction with people/our clients and making sure they have a good time is something we really love.
The more serious search for a location in Spain started in 2017. We first focused our search in the Alicante region, following our friends, but the houses we liked online always seemed to be located in the neighbouring Granada region. We just love a natural environment, especially the countryside with mountains.
We spent nearly a year trying to buy a property we both fell in love with, but it turned out to be illegally built and there was no resolution. So, we had to start over and shortly afterwards, we met Danielle from At Home in Andalusia.
From that moment on it went smoothly, and she had a fantastic property for sale, an existing business with individual holiday homes in a beautiful location and this time, all was completely legal with all permits in place!
How was the purchase process this time?
It was exciting of course and Danielle gave very honest and good advice and always responded quickly when we had questions and our bilingual Spanish solicitor was very helpful too. Because it was an existing (family run) business that had been built up personally by the sellers, they were still very fond of it and we had to ‘prove ourselves’ a little before reaching an agreement!
With the help of Danielle and open and honest communication with the sellers, it all went well, and we are still good friends with everyone involved.
How was the first year in operation?
We decided to deal with small repairs first and to do some upgrading to our standards before opening and to use the first summer season to learn what could possibly be improved. We received a mixture of existing and new customers and we really enjoyed it.
Then for the second round of improvements, we closed the holiday units again for a few months from November 2019, so that guests would not be disturbed by construction work. We believe when guests are staying here, they should be able to relax and fully enjoy their holiday and imagine themselves in paradise. The feedback we got from our first guests was heartwarming and we were all ready to go full steam ahead again this spring, with lots of bookings and booking calendars filling up quickly. But then Coronavirus arrived in Europe…
The first cancellation came just before the official lockdown, at a time, we didn’t think it was particularly worrying, but events quickly escalated, and the rest is history!
How are you coping?
We initially felt paralysed by the situation and didn’t know what to do, but we never give up and after the first shock we decided to use the weeks of house arrest to start and finish various projects that will add value later on:
We created a vegetable garden, so our customers can now pick their own organic vegetables and cut fresh herbs if they want to barbecue.
We invested in brand new solar panels to make the accommodation CO2 neutral.
We also spent a lot of time in updating our listings on all booking portals and also updated our own website, which was a bit of a challenge and we recently entered the completely new (for us anyway) world of social media.
What can you offer your clients this summer and autumn, while people still worry about the virus?
Our accommodation is very safe in that sense, because all our holiday units are individual houses with their own facilities; they have one or more bedrooms, their own kitchen facilities and private terraces.
We clean according to a strict protocol and therefore the houses are safe to visit.
During their stay, only our guests will enter the accommodation and when they leave, we follow the same strict cleaning and disinfecting protocol for the next family.
We let 4 individual holiday homes – one for 2 guests, two for 2/4 guests and one larger house for 6/8 people.
We are lucky that our communal areas are all exterior, and very generous in size, so it is possible to keep enough distance at the pool and you will never have to be near other guests if you don’t want to be.
In addition, we guarantee reimbursement of all deposits in case the situation changes and travel restrictions are put back in place. We hope that will give future guests enough confidence to book a holiday with us and fingers crossed, it looks like foreigners will be welcome again from the 3rd of July, so it is starting to look hopeful again.
Do you have any tips for other adventurers who also want to emigrate or start a business in Spain?
Firstly, I think you need to know your strength and do something you really like and are good at.
And secondly, play safe when it comes to the budgeting your new venture, because you don’t know how quickly you can make it into a success and you don’t know what’s around the corner. We could never have envisaged this scenario, but we can only hope that our dedication and determination pays off, and people will come flock to stay when this is all over.
We already have bookings planned for August and September, so fingers crossed we can pull through.
Fancy a stay with Alphons and Rogier in Alojamiento El Valle?
Book direct via WhatsApp on: +34 649 161896
Want to support their business online?
Follow and like them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Alojamiento-Rural-El-Valle-110434680475947/
And visit their website: http://www.granadarural.com/en/