When you think of popular holiday destinations around the world, places like Marbella, San Antonio and Las Vegas spring to mind.
But a new thriving destination can now be added to that list – Milton Keynes.
Middle Eastern families are flocking to MK for their vacations each year, providing a much-needed boost to our local economy after Brexit.
And it’s all thanks to Thomas Connolly, one of MK’s leading estate agencies, whose managing directors Joe Connolly and Neal Butler have forged unique business relationships with communities in the region over the last decade.
The pair have utilised their strong connections overseas to sell Milton Keynes properties to people from oil-rich countries such as Kuwait, Dubai and Qatar to use as holiday homes.
The families regularly spend money with city contractors on improving their homes, as well as splashing out on local attractions in and around MK.
Joe and Neal have built upon their success by opening a flourishing satellite office in Kuwait to operate alongside Thomas Connolly’s central Milton Keynes base.
Celebrate:MK caught up with the pair at the company’s modern office at The Hub to discuss their achievements both locally and abroad.
Joe said: “We have basically turned Milton Keynes into a holiday destination, and so it should be as it’s a giant playground of activities.
“We make regular visits to Kuwait and we’ve successfully sold lots of MK houses to the lovely people over there, who use them as holiday homes or ask us to rent them out to the UK market.
“People might laugh at the thought of Milton Keynes as a holiday destination but it makes perfect sense.
“How many places have got an indoor shopping mall that’s half-a-mile long, a real ski slope, the first 4D cinema, 22 lakes, all the greenery, a safari park, zip wires and Redways so you can cycle anywhere?
“MK is basically a giant Center Parcs. In one day I can go for a mountain bike ride, a run around the woods and go on my motocross bike.
“I can then put my kayak in one of the lakes, go for a picnic, go shooting at one of the local clubs, horse riding, then go up the ski dome to do some snowboarding and skiing, onto the theatre to watch a play, and then to the cinema. We’ve got it all here.”
Thomas Connolly places a huge emphasis on reputation, which has helped the brand to thrive both in the Middle East and in Milton Keynes.
Neal explained: “We work so hard on building our reputation and, if you look at the Middle Eastern world, it’s a culture that’s predominantly built on integrity and trust.
“If you break that trust you are famous throughout the lands for being a bad person to deal with – and thankfully that’s not us.
“Trust, honesty, integrity and reputation are hugely important to us and it has helped us to sell homes to people not only in the UK and Kuwait, but in Dubai and Qatar too.”
During our interview a married couple from Kuwait arrived at the office to collect the keys to their new holiday home in Milton Keynes.
Asked by Celebrate:MK why they had bought a house in MK, the gentleman – who wanted to remain anonymous – replied: “It’s a nice place for us to stay for a few months every year as a family. Everyone in Kuwait knows about Milton Keynes.
“There are lots of things for us to do, and we like it because it is safe for our children to play out in the street.
“We can also easily visit London from here if we wish.”
Thomas Connolly’s growth has been quite remarkable when you consider that on March 13 it will celebrate only its second birthday as a business.
Joe explained how the company – which has recently sold a whopping 140 new Taylor Wimpey units at Campbell Park – has rapidly become such a major force on the estate agency scene.
“We started off with just Neal and I but now we have 16 full-time members of staff, each of which were head-hunted because they are specialists in their field,” he said.
“So we have a different person for million-pound houses, village houses, central housing estates, new homes, rental properties, maintenance and more.
“Our business has been grown organically and we’ve never borrowed a penny off anyone, which we are really proud of.
“We’ve been trading for less than two years but we’ve grown at an absolutely incredible rate.
“But as partners we’re not only passionate about the business, we’re very passionate about Milton Keynes, its future and the longevity of it.
“Our office in The Hub is a statement of intent and we’ll do this until we drop dead… then Neal’s kids can run it!”
If you are thinking of selling or renting your home, call Thomas Connolly on 01908 774422 or visit http://www.thomasconnolly.co.uk
This article was first published in the March issue of Celebrate:MK lifestyle magazine, which is exclusively the only local magazine available for pick-up in the Milton Keynes branch of Waitrose, at Oakgrove. You can also pick up a copy from David Lloyd Club in Newlands or from University Campus Milton Keynes. Read the full March digital edition by clicking here.