Former Manston business owners change direction with Thanet holiday-let management service

Rachel and Spencer Wichall have joined Pass The Keys property management

A couple who previously owned a garden room business in Manston have changed direction to partner with a property management firm.

Rachel and Spencer Wichall have joined Pass The Keys property management, meaning the London-based business has now expanded to the isle.

The parents-of-two, from Sandwich, had previously run their Manston business for some 20 years before selling and striking out on a new venture.

Pass The Keys manages properties on short-letting sites like Airbnb.

Rachel says that although holiday let properties are a controversial subject she believes there is a positive side to consider.

She said: “I am aware of the current local controversy over second homers/AirBnBs but there is another side to explore.  Many second homers leave the properties empty in between personal visits – AirBnB brings people into the properties and the towns.

“I have personally already given work to local electricians, plumbers and cleaners as we prepare these properties. Money is coming out of London into local people’s pockets.  The next year isn’t going to be easy for anyone but encouraging visitors to our towns and providing local work and employment for local people has to be a positive.”

A Kent Housing Stock report published at the end of last year said Thanet has 67,903 dwelling stock with 3,049 council properties; 4,690 private registered providers; 225 ‘other’ private sector and 59,939 private sector.

Thanet has the highest number and proportion of empty dwellings in the county (2,533, 3.7%) This represents 14.1% of the total vacant dwellings in Kent. It also has the highest number of long-term empty dwellings (1,129). This was 153 more than the previous year (an increase of 15.7%) the biggest increase seen in Kent.

The district also has the highest proportion of vacant dwellings which are long-term empty with 44.6% being empty for six months or more.

Some 2.5% (1,670) of the total housing stock in Thanet are second homes, again the highest rate in the county.

Data from Visit Kent shows a growing Airbnb sector with Thanet recording 1,089 active rentals with a rental growth of 373% between 2016 and 2019.

Last year a motion proposing planning restrictions on short term lets and a 90 day per year letting limit for entire homes in Thanet on Airbnb was brought to Thanet council but failed to secure backing for debate.

Cllr Rob Yates had proposed the action over concerns that whole property rentals on Airbnb are impacting on the supply of long-term lets for residents.

The Margate councillor said those with entire property rentals are using the isle as an investment opportunity while residents struggle to find accommodation.

Thanet holiday rental business owners hit back saying the restrictions would not only ruin people’s businesses but also impact on employment and the wider supply chain – such as pubs, launderettes and restaurants.

A 5 year plan to boost tourism in Thanet presented to council in 2020 said tourism is worth £320 million per year to the local economy and supports, directly and indirectly 7,950 jobs. The report said nearly one in five visitors are from London with a key market being in their 20s to early 40s and among suggested actions were: “upgrading existing B&Bs and supporting new serviced accommodation such as midrange hotels, lodge and camping pods and high-quality independent B&Bs.”

Rachel and Spencer say their role is to manage properties and boost tourism in Thanet.

Rachel said: “We are always telling people how Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs are transforming and we love seeing tired buildings brought back to life and made available for holiday makers.

“The renaissance of our towns is bringing money and employment to the area and we are proud to be part of the reason people come and stay in our towns and enjoy the hospitality of Thanet.

“We think that a single property can take as much as 10 hours each week to manage, and that is assuming that nothing goes wrong! Most people do not have this kind of time spare and, hopefully, now this will not matter.

“We do everything, from creating the listing, and finding the guests, to checking them in and then cleaning up after them. It has been great to partner with Pass the Keys as they already have 7 years experience, and have already learned how to deliver a high-quality service, in what is a very complex environment.”

For anyone looking to find out more information about holiday home management or Pass the Keys Thanet visit:

Find more on the AirBnB debate

Thanet Airbnb: Would proposed restrictions help the long-term let market or would it damage tourism, businesses and jobs?


  1. Interesting point: “Many second homers leave the properties empty in between personal visits – AirBnB brings people into the properties and the towns.”

    The trouble with this is that people tend to stay in seaside resorts less often in winter months. It’s not too much of a problem (yet) in Thanet, but many fishing villages in other parts of the country are near empty during the winter, forcing shops to close, whilst locals find it impossible to buy/rent anything.

  2. Air B&Bs never used to be heard of but councils still had long waiting list. The shortage of rental properties is 100% due to the disastrous policies of Margaret Thatcher selling off council houses, if that was not bad enough they were also sold at much less than the true market value to tenants who could not afford them robbing the councils and taxpayers of billions of ££££s in lost assets and rental income. Many of the tenants who took out 100% mortgages only to find 25 years later having to sell the houses and move into caravans because no way could they pay the capital final payment. If one looks back over the Thatcher years and what that evil women done to the UK it can be summed up as a catastrophic disaster.
    If the new unelected “ prime minister” wants to model herself onThatcher then GOD HELP us because she will put the UK into trillions of debt for years to come.

    • The right to buy properties were valued on the basis of having a sitting tenant which being social housing tenancies they were as the tenants had lifetime rights. You sre confusing the values they were given on that basis with notional values if they had been “vacant possession”.

    • Don’t worry Ann, Truss won’t last long, remember the Tory’s sacked Thatcher (& Theresa May!) and there is a General Election within the next 2 years, and hopefully we can get rid of the 2 Thanet chocolate tea pot Thanet MP’s, both traitors for supporting the reopening of Manston!

  3. What we should be questioning are the 2,533 empty dwellings in Thanet in particular the 1,129 long term ones. Who owns them? What can be done to bring them into use for the local rental market?

    Airbnb and other property rentals are affecting the local housing market but they are not the sole cause of it. A lot of private rental landlords are also selling up due to problem tenants, rent not being paid, new legislation etc.

    And yes, Thatcher can be blamed for the council house sell off, but Blair did nothing to stop it either.

  4. I’d rather tired old properties were bought back to life as manageable rentals that people could afford as opposed to Air BnB properties. There was recently a story published in the Isle of Thanet News about a family facing a no-fault eviction and having nowhere to live. In this day and age this surely cannot be right.

  5. The RTB policy would have little effect on the market of today had it not been created 40 years ago. Tenants would simply remain as tenants and their offspring; the property would still be unavailable now.

    This is because (most?) councils assure tenancies for a maximum of 3 generations; this would appear to be 70+ years – meaning it would be at least 2050 before a new family could move in. This does not account for those new families who want to leave the fold.

    So the housing issue would be exactly the same.

    • Yep an inconvenient fact the haters choose to ignore, along with the social mobility that right to buy gave those who took part in the scheme.

  6. What strange part of the world we live in. Thanet voters have ensured that for a decade we have been Ruled by the Tories, lovers of free enterprise and ‘the market’ and aghast of rules telling people what to do with their hard earned money, yet here we have people unhappy that someone could decide what to do with their own property!

    Also, lots of Manston supporters complaint that tourism is not an adequate industry, its not a whole year round industry, etc etc yet it brought £320m and gave employment to 9000 LOCAL people…in the meantime, the airport total WORLDWIDE employment in year 20 is estimated to be (by RSP, no less) 20,000 people…

    Something does not tally…

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