Following a virtual roundtable held with a panel of holiday let experts, we have developed several blogs to outline the key points discussed around the future of the sector, post-Covid.
The second blog in the series focuses on the panel’s advice to operators when planning for and responding to evolving restrictions.
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.
Planning for and responding to evolving restrictions
The panel agreed that having a clear set of fair and balanced principles in place will make it easier for operators to react to ever changing restrictions and communicate efficiently with guests in order to maintain positive sentiment.
Gill explained: “Having strong, reassuring communications with customers is critical, as this fosters a positive relationship with them from the outset. Operators should think about formulating a plan around cancellations and updating their terms and conditions in line with CMA guidance. In order to maintain goodwill while retaining cash flow, offering a credit towards future stays would be worthwhile.”
When considering what operators can do to minimise the potential damage of short-notice restrictions, Joby emphasised the importance of preparation and speed. “Being reactive and anticipating future changes and how they could affect policies is important. Plan for one-household restrictions to be enforced across the UK and consider how many bookings that could affect. Prepare for the worst case scenario in the event of local and national lockdowns and have the strategic and operational plans in place now so it is not a surprise if it happens.
“For holidaycottages.co.uk, that has meant establishing our principles early and communicating them to owners and guests clearly. For operators, that could mean amending your proposition to the market that is out there, for example, focusing marketing efforts on reaching smaller groups or people who would ordinarily have travelled abroad.”
In addition, given that last minute cancellations are harder to mitigate, Joby recommended encouraging potentially affected guests to make quick decisions on their booking to provide the best chance of securing alternative bookings. In particular, people in parties of less than six and one household parties are still booking.
Alongside this, he also suggested making last minute availability prominent and attractive as people seem to be more confident about booking at short notice. “For July, August and September, we saw a 15% increase in bookings with a lead time of three weeks or less.”
In terms of local lockdowns specifically, Gill suggested operators focus on local tourism opportunities by encouraging people to rediscover what is on their doorstep.
Meanwhile, Fiona encouraged operators to use this opportunity to consider how their business operates and where they could make improvements: “We’re working with our members to identify where policies and practices could be improved, for example, offering flexible cancellation policies and promoting COVID-secure cleaning practices. All of which will instil confidence in customers and encourage them to book.”
Take a look at part one of our discussion about planning for evolving restrictions, which focused on:
- Using our experience from the last 6 months, and being prepared
- The importance of communication and collaboration
- What the organisations they represent are doing to support the holiday let sector
- Responding to possible further restrictions
Or view part two where we discussed:
- October half term and looking ahead to Christmas
- How can you adapt, improve and protect your business, to boost customer confidence and protect their experience?
- Re-discovering the British staycation
Did you miss episode one of the panel discussion? It focused specifically on the short-term challenges the sector faces and balancing that with the expected long-term boost the experts are predicting, and you can read about it here.
Our final episode from the roundtable series will focus on the critical role of communication and collaboration as well as the financial considerations operators should be thinking about.