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31/05/2018I’m delighted to announce that Personal Touch Holidays has been shortlisted for a brand new national travel award, the Classic FM i-Award. This award is to be gifted to the tourism company or entity that has, in the opinion of a panel of distinguished travel industry judges, made the most innovative contribution to over-50s travel this past year. Our entry for this award has been a joint one, in partnership with UK charity Dementia Adventure, with whom we have been developing opportunities for those living with dementia and their partners to enjoy supported vacations overseas. This has been a really heart-warming project to be involved with. Dementia Adventure is a wonderful charity with the entirely laudable aim of improving the quality of life of all those affected by dementia by creating thoughtfully supported holiday opportunities for them, expanding their range of experience, and providing them with invaluable positive contact with others living with the same condition. Our challenge at Personal Touch Holidays has been to fully understand the challenge that Dementia Adventure have set themselves and overcome the additional challenges of translating their highly successful modus operandum to an overseas context. Following detailed discussions with Dementia Adventure Operations Director and Co-Founder Lucy Harding, step one for me was to experience a UK Dementia Adventure holiday for myself, and what better way than as a volunteer support worker? Preparation for that role involved reading and training. And then, out of the blue, a phone call from Dementia Adventure to inform me that an opportunity had arisen for me to join a team of two other support volunteers plus an adventure leader on the Isle of Wight, where we would be supporting four people living with dementia plus their carers. What I experienced over that 5-day break elicited huge compassion in me, and a commitment to do all that I can to render overseas holidays for people living with dementia as phenomenally rewarding for their participants as their UK counterparts. In addition to the need to understand dementia, several other requirements became clear to me during that break. The full participation of the owners of the accommodation (in this instance they drove a minivan and prepared all the meals), the ability to take over an accommodation unit in its entirety so as to be able to create an easy-going, warm and secure atmosphere somewhat akin to that of a house party, the need to be able to temper holiday content without dumbing it down in any sense, and the importance of the morning and evening meals as social events. The peaceful, and beautiful countryside setting of the accommodation was also key. Not only was it highly therapeutic in itself but being an entirely self-contained property and free from outside intrusion, we were able to adjust and control the ambience within. On returning from this experience I embarked upon step two of this project: research. Because the client base of Dementia Adventure is nationwide, and because travelling is a complicated process for those living with dementia, it was important to identify a nearby overseas destination with flight access from a wide variety of UK regional airports. Similarly important was the need to identify an accommodation base not too far from the destination airport. If we were to recreate the ‘feel’ of the Isle of Wight property we also needed the ‘tone’ of the destination to be right. The contender destination airports were Malaga, Alicante, Palma de Mallorca, and the Algarve. Of these I decided to begin my search with Faro, as I felt that the gentler tone of the destination would render our chances higher of finding an appropriate accommodation. Ideally I was looking for an 8 to 10 room property (4 to 5 couples plus 4 to 5 support workers). Needless to say, despite the 21st-century luxury of the internet, it took quite some time to find a property that matched our criteria, but when we did, we got really lucky. We found a historic farmhouse with all ground floor rooms, no steps, walk-in showers, and with walled gardens both front and back. Moreover, it was free for ‘exclusive’ rental in both November and March. Not only that, but one of the owners’ parents was living with dementia and they therefore both had a grounding in the condition. The fact that a friendly dog and three cats animate the property 24/7 also added to its charm. I now needed to progress to step three. The design of an appropriate and stimulating itinerary. Days out would need to begin late and end early, with appropriate lunch and comfort stops included. Walking distances would need to be strictly controlled and all points of interest would need to be wheelchair accessible. Most importantly, we needed to strive to represent the Algarve in all its glory: beaches, cliffs, history, music, local food, etc. In the end, our highly varied itinerary included two boat trips (one coastal, one inland), a mini train ride around a historic town, a clifftop boardwalk stroll, an informal Fado concert, a visit to a cork oak forest, and a Sunday lunchtime barbecue. As the property also has an adequate kitchen for its guests, evening meals are to be provided at the farmhouse by both volunteer support workers and a visiting cook, and God willing, we’ll be able to eat outside sometimes on the large patio overlooking the front garden. Step four was the preparation of advertising materials and the placement of our holidays ‘on sale’. To our absolute delight, both holidays placed on sale so far have sold out, and we are already planning not only additional departures for our Algarve base but also the incorporation of a new destination to the Dementia Adventure holiday range for 2019. It is hugely gratifying to have made the final six for this award, and, win or come sixth, we are really looking forward to the event at which it will be presented in the summer. Fingers crossed!
30/08/2018 - Jonathan Plumridge of Personal Touch Holidays describes the evolution of bowling in Spain
06/08/2018 - Jonathan Plumridge describes a wonderful new holiday opportunity on a coastline close to Seville
31/05/2018 - I’m delighted to announce that Personal Touch Holidays has been shortlisted for a brand new national travel award, the Classic FM i-Award.
18/09/2017 - Personal Touch Holidays sponsors a new national bowls competition in memory of its founder Sharon Smith.
15/08/2016 - Jonathan Plumridge, of Personal Touch Holidays, profiles a wonderful base for overseas bowls holidays .....
08/02/2016 - The story behind our very first Bowls England overseas President's tour, hosted by the 2014 Bowls England President, Adie Lloyd.
08/02/2016 - Jonathan reports back from the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Graham & Sylvia Barrett sequence dance holiday in Paphos
02/10/2015 - Jonathan Plumridge, of Personal Touch Holidays, profiles a new destination for overseas bowls tours – Menorca.
02/10/2015 - Jonathan Plumridge, of Personal Touch Holidays, describes a sure-fire formula for bowls holiday success.
02/10/2015 - Jonathan Plumridge, of Personal Touch Holidays, describes a highly attractive new bowls tour option in the Portuguese Algarve.
02/10/2015 - Jonathan Plumridge of Personal Touch Holidays pays tribute to Sharon Smith, his wife and the much-loved founder of Personal Touch Holidays