A recent YouGov poll showed that of those who have booked a summer holiday this year, nearly twice as many have booked a domestic stay over going abroad.
And while the proposed traffic light system for foreign travel offers some hope for holidaying abroad this summer, many Brits will undoubtedly still turn to the UK for the higher levels of certainty offered. With this in mind, many investors are considering purchasing a holiday let property – with Google searches for ‘holiday let mortgage’ increasing 23% in March.
So, what trends should the UK’s travel sector expect to see throughout the 2021 staycation season? And how will this impact holiday let owners?
Here are my top eight predictions.
An increased desire to book last minute stays
According to Joby Mussell, chief commercial officer at holidaycottages.co.uk, last minute demand is currently high, with 31% of bookings taken in the past seven days for holidays departing before May half-term, up 165% compared to the same week in 2019.
Mussell comments: “With restrictions limiting holidays to those from single households until at least May 17, and with children back at school, we are seeing a high percentage of couples booking in the near-term, with party sizes increasing from the end of May onwards.”
He adds: “Demand is also still high for the summer holidays - however, with guests booking much further ahead for this period in order to secure their first-choice properties, availability is now much more limited here.”
While last minute booking is common for trips abroad, it has not been a trend typically seen in the holiday let sector.
To capitalise on this trend, holiday let owners should consider what instant booking capabilities and facilities they offer and whether they are in a position to respond with speed to a request. They should also consider making last minute availability more prominent.
Offering flexible and transparent cancellation policies
The risk of last-minute cancellations due to, for example, being required to self-isolate could be dampening some people’s desire to book far in advance. Uncertainty around personal finances may also be bearing an impact on holiday bookings, whether that be people on furlough or more generally concerned about economic upheaval.
As such, people need extra reassurance that if they do need to cancel due to Covid, they will not lose out financially. Accepting payments as late as possible and having flexible refund policies will help owners to overcome these concerns and convert more bookings.
We asked Mussell for his thoughts: “Transparent cancellation policies are always important and our standard booking terms are clearly stated on holidaycottages.co.uk.”
“If the government, however, introduce further coronavirus restrictions meaning guests are legally unable to travel, they will have the options to transfer their booking to a later date, receive a voucher or opt for a full refund of the cost of their holiday. Our policies for bookings affected by coronavirus restrictions can be found on our coronavirus guest FAQs page. “
Proliferation of new and emerging markets
Working from home has grown exponentially and is a trend that is predicted to continue throughout 2021 and beyond. This presents a new opportunity for holiday let owners to target a new type of visitor.
Firstly, those who want a change of scenery from their dining room table and may choose to work from a holiday rental, which perhaps offers more inspiring views and comforts. Important here, is whether your accommodation has the relevant facilities such as high speed WiF or a convenient working space.
Secondly, those who have moved out of urban areas in search of more outdoor space, but who are still required to be in the city for part of their working week. These visitors may seek short-term rentals in city centre locations for a couple of nights a week.
First-time holiday let users
With the uncertainty surrounding trips abroad, the opportunity is presented to target those who might always have gone abroad in the past with your British alternative.
Holiday let owners could capitalise on this next year by finding new and innovative ways to promote their properties and areas in a way that appeals to this new audience. How about swapping Lake Garda for Lake Windermere, or a Barcelona break for a staycation in Edinburgh?
An increased focus on health and safety
As people seek extra reassurance that their UK break will be Covid-safe, we predict that the spring/summer season will see a continued high number of holiday let owners evidencing their health and safety policies as a key part of their property marketing.
Gaining accreditation such as the Visit Britain ‘Good to Go’ scheme, demonstrating additional cleaning measures via property imagery and descriptions and encouraging guests to comment on the cleanliness of the accommodation within their reviews are all great ways to show new customers that you’re on top of your Covid cleaning regime.
Reprioritising accommodation facilities
Whereas in previous years, a holiday let property may have been regarded more as a base for exploring the local area, until vaccinations are fully rolled out, there’s the possibility that some guests will spend more time in their accommodation than usual.
For example, if it’s raining, guests may opt to stay in the property rather than visit local indoor attractions, so a comfortable living and entertaining space would also be key.
Over the next few months, we therefore expect holiday let owners to emphasise features like a well-appointed kitchen, or facilities such as a Smart TV or games room in their marketing. Perhaps even providing extra outdoors equipment like bicycles may become a bigger selling point than in the past.
Guests are increasingly looking for the whole package, so owners should provide lots of information and advice on what there is to do in the area and around the property, whether there are restrictions in place or not. For example, promote local takeaways as well as restaurants. Showing people that there a broad range of options in the area will help potential guests to make their booking decision.
Growing focus on offering services aligned to wellness in body and mind
Health and wellbeing has been a hot topic in the travel industry for some time and as a result of Covid, is now even more top of mind.
How can holiday let owners incorporate health and wellness into their offerings? It could be as simple as re-framing what you already offer - helping people to reconnect with their families, address their work-life balance, or discover new ways to keep active in the great outdoors.
Partnering with other local businesses to offer add-on experiences such as private yoga classes at the property can also make your proposition stand out from the crowd.
Growth in importance of ‘keeping it local’
2020 really emphasised the importance of supporting local businesses, and we expect this to play a big role in 2021 too. Holiday let owners have a unique opportunity to partner with local businesses and share marketing efforts for example, including a welcome gift sourced from a local deli or cross-selling additional extras such as a local hamper.
It’s a great win-win, supporting the local business community, while offering guests a real taste of the region.
More expansive dog-friendly offerings
Offering your property as pet-friendly has always been important, enabling owners to target a much bigger market. However, with 2020 seeing more people than ever welcoming ‘lockdown’ puppies into their families, there has never been a better time to revisit this.
We expect that being dog-friendly will be a key piece of search criteria for many potential guests in 2021.
If your property is dog-friendly, how can you emphasise this in your listing to make it stand out? Think about what dog-owners are looking for that your property can offer, such as a safe, enclosed garden, and make sure you showcase any such features in your property description and imagery.
Are you thinking of investing in a holiday let this year? Find out about our holiday let mortgages here.