Why Further Afield is as relevant as ever
Further Afield is marking 10 years of championing places to stay that are inclusive and welcoming, its core messages. It’s been a decade of huge change, not least for online travel resources, and its Director David Matthews takes a moment to reflect on why he believes so strongly in what the website represents.
My journey with Further Afield started eight years ago when I moved to Spain, opened a B&B and began looking at suitable marketing ideas. Further Afield’s wonderful founders, Simon Forrester and Andrew Craven, were still at the website’s helm and had created a brand focused on providing the LGBTQ community with a collection of places with a guaranteed welcome, like lovely Godney Arts House below.
It might, to some, seem like a strange USP, but, as part of a same-sex couple, I’d become jaded about “coming out” at every check-in, having to explain “a double bed is fine thank you”. Plus there’d been some worrying cases, such as the UK B&B that turned away a same-sex couple on religious grounds (in case you’ve forgotten here’s a reminder). So the website’s core messages resonated with the values at the heart of what we were trying to create at our guesthouse, Almohalla 51.
By 2016, Simon and Andrew were unable to give the collection the attention they wanted and were looking at options for its future. Through our membership of the collection we’d become good friends and I jumped at the opportunity to continue the collection’s journey. However, in those five years much had changed – same-sex marriage had been legalised, new laws were in force protecting the LGBTQ community. Yet much really hadn’t – there were protests about schools including all types of families in their teaching, same-sex couples were being attacked on public transport, politically the world seemed perhaps more unstable.
Curation, inclusivity and welcome were the key reasons I believed Further Afield was valid when we joined it and when I chose to become its curator. It’s why I continue working to strengthen the collection for the future.
Curation is an overused word in travel collections, but it’s true of Further Afield. The internet is a wonderful thing when it comes to planning travel, but that online space is increasingly dominated by big players that act, in reality, as listing sites. For every destination, you need to wade through multiple places to stay before checking review sites ahead of making a booking.
At Further Afield, when I’m approached by a new partner I spend hours researching the place and, where possible, visit it myself or arrange for someone else to visit. I’m looking at aesthetics as well as approach, ensuring there’s no place featured on Further Afield that I wouldn’t happily check-in to myself.
In terms of inclusivity and welcome, on paper today’s society has moved far from 2009 in terms of how it protects and includes those from minority groups. In reality, there are so many issues facing society today. At its heart, Further Afield brings together places to stay that are owned or hosted by people who are passionate about doing what they do well, but also who care about creating a space that stands up for a fair and inclusive world. With 85% of Further Afield’s properties managed by their owners (like Joseph and Stefano’s Baglio Giammaccaro above), the places we feature have a sense of personality and individualism. That’s not just in terms of aspects such as styling, but also the amazing people themselves, such as Ursula at Art Space Gites, who provides artist retreats at her properties, funded by income from renting them. Or Bob and Ian at Casal dei Fichi , who work tirelessly to ensure that their guests can contribute to protecting and enhancing the environment and offsetting their travel. Or Wilbert at Arriadh Hotel, who dedicates much of his own time and money to helping LGBTQ refugees in Africa. I’ve picked out just three examples, but you get the drift.
I’m often asked if there’s really a need for a collection like Further Afield in today’s society and my answer is always “yes!”. I’m not pretending that Further Afield can change the world – which is in part why I donate a percentage of what I make to Stonewall, because I think maybe they can – but it does unite a group of wonderful places to stay that, in their own way, make a difference, one holiday at a time.