Changes at Paddock Wood Hop Farm in bid to attract visitors
THE Hop Farm in Paddock Wood has undergone a radical management restructure in an effort to halt a five-year slide in visitor numbers.
Following a comprehensive review of the business, Eddie Kemsley was appointed managing director earlier this year.
The 33-year-old has since built a new team around her, recruiting Dawn Postlethwaite as head of attractions, Nicola Bayliss as head of development and Karl Morgan as head of events.
Ms Kemsley, who lives on the site with her husband and their ten-month-old daughter, said: "Our industry is struggling in the current financial climate.
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"I know from our involvement with the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions that many of the 300 members have experienced a dramatic drop in business.
"We don't reveal precise figures, but the number of visitors to The Hop Farm has declined significantly over the past five years with 2011 recording a new low point."
Since taking over, Ms Kemsley has undertaken a project to identify the key strands of the business and has tasked her team with giving them a fresh impetus.
"So far it is working and we are on track with both visitor numbers and expenditure," added Ms Kemsley.
"One of the main problems is the seasonal nature of our industry.
"Most companies in our sector make between 60-70 per cent of their money on only 100 days of the year.
"The challenge is to keep up visitor attendance in the intervening months.
"We have a full-time staff of 35-40, but numbers can swell to 200 during the high season with the intake of part-time or temporary personnel."
The Hop Farm is owned by Peter Bull and managed by Bluebird Partners, a London-based asset management firm specialising in hotels, leisure centres and caravan parks.
Earlier this month it played host to its fifth music festival, operated by Vince Power, which attracted the likes of Bob Dylan, Ray Davies and Suede.
The War and Peace Show, in which The Hop Farm has a 50 per cent interest through a joint venture, starts on Wednesday and will last until Sunday.