Over the past six months, The Cumberland has witnessed the pressure its hospitality customers have been under in trying to navigate the ever changing trading restrictions imposed on them by Covid-19.
With so much to contend with as a sector, The Cumberland decided to bring together a group of experts to review where we are and examine the outlook for the holiday lettings sector.
Hosted by The Cumberland’s Senior Business Lending Manager, Grant Seaton, the virtual roundtable featured leading holiday let experts Joby Mussell, Chief Commercial Officer at holiday letting agency, holidaycottages.co.uk; Gill Haigh, Managing Director at Destination Management Organisation, Cumbria Tourism; and Fiona Campbell, Chief Executive of the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers.
The panel’s discussion focused on how operators might move forward with the ever present threat of fast-paced COVID-19 restrictions and short notice changes.
Collectively, the panel agreed that the short-term focus has to be on navigating the immediate challenges.
But optimistically, the panel felt strongly that the future for the UK’s holiday let market looks positive with bookings for 2021 already looking healthy.
This blog features the first episode in the roundtable series, focusing specifically on the short-term challenges the sector faces and balancing that with the expected long-term boost the experts are predicting.
Short-term challenges versus long-term boost
Starting the discussion on a positive note, Joby commented: “We are confident in the long-term future of the staycation market, with new audiences experiencing the benefits of UK holidays this year and demand for 2021 already looking strong.
“Demand and bookings remain high with the holiday season extending all the way through into October – we experienced a very busy September with less than 3% availability left and less than 17% availability going into October.
“Meanwhile forward bookings – a mix of 2020 transfers and new bookings – are 156% up year-on-year providing greater security of long-term earnings and recovery.”
This sentiment was echoed by Gill: “We’ve seen increased numbers of visitors over the past six months as those who would traditionally travel abroad have stayed in the UK. Given the beauty our country has to offer, we are confident they will become repeat visitors as we continue to provide COVID-safe experiences.”
While in Scotland, Fiona noted the success of smaller operators: “Our smaller self-catering operators are actually doing brilliantly.”
Clearly, the panel believe that the long-term opportunity for the sector remains bright, however, they did point out that the sector faces difficult challenges in the short-term.
Joby highlighted that while customer demand and future bookings remain steady, on the flip side, cancellations are higher than usual. Undoubtedly, due to the evolving Covid restrictions that could mean certain guests are no longer able to visit.
And while Fiona’s smaller members are doing well, larger operators who accommodate more than six are facing a challenging time with the rule of six and one household restrictions taking their toll.
Despite this, Gill was quick to highlight the positivity that could be taken from this unprecedented situation: “Whatever happens, we’ve been there before, we’ve mobilised and we can use that to our collective strength. The fact remains that people still want a holiday, they want something to look forward to and that is where the UK’s holiday let sector will really come into its own.”
Grant added: “As an industry, we’ve shown our resilience and agility and proven we can react with pace, whatever obstacle we may face.”
Our next blog features the panel’s discussion around planning for and responding to the ever-changing restrictions of Covid-19.