What are the opportunities for SA operators?
A guest post from the team at Flogas
As the UK has emerged out of lockdown and ventured further towards normality over the summer months, people have made the most of the holiday season with UK staycations. While international travel remained largely off the table, UK hotels, hostels, and B&Bs had the go-ahead to re-open their doors, so people could finally get away for a long-awaited break.
As all serviced accommodation operators know, this was very welcome news for the hospitality industry, and holiday let owners experienced a surge of bookings as a result. Early summer statistics indicated that 71 per cent of people intended to holiday in the UK, domestic holiday sales were expected to reach a 10-year high, and people were set to spend an anticipated £7.1 billion on holidaying closer to home. And we all know just how busy tourism destinations have been over the past few months – owners saw their properties being snapped up within hours of being advertised on the main portals.
For property investors, this is a sector that cannot be ignored. UK holidays have always been popular, and many tourists who would have previously gone abroad have now had the chance to explore some of the beautiful areas of the UK they had not visited before.
While uncertainty around foreign travel deterred many from going abroad this year, early conversations with holiday let agencies indicate that holidaying in the UK will continue to be popular through 2022. People are already booking up for next year, so with the appetite for British staycations now at a high, Flogas, a provider of commercial LPG, looks at how the holiday let industry can continue to make the most of this unique opportunity.
Publicise COVID safety measures
Whilst confidence is growing, some people are still naturally feeling cautious about holidaying due to the pandemic. This means one of the key things they’re looking for when planning a staycation is reassurance that accommodation is COVID-secure.
To allay any fears and appease more anxious travellers, holiday let owners should make sure they’re clearly communicating how COVID-safe their accommodation is. People will be reassured to hear about any additional steps that are being taken, such as enhanced cleaning regimes, one-way systems, and staff training. Owners can even go one step further in boosting customer confidence and gain proper accreditation. For example, AA COVID Confident, which launched last year and is supported by 19 industry bodies, is a free accreditation scheme that’s open to all hospitality establishments.
Make the most of last-minute bookings
Since the pandemic hit, the industry has noticed a change in booking habits from holidaymakers. Concerned about shifting restrictions and enforced cancellations, they are now taking a much shorter-term approach to bookings, and there’s been a notable increase in spontaneous travel. In fact, recent data shows that 69 per cent of UK bookings were being made within just seven days.
To make the most of this new trend, holiday let owners should ensure they have instant booking facilities in place and the ability to respond quickly to incoming requests. They should also make sure they’re publicising any last-minute availability as much as possible.
Offer enhanced booking flexibility
From local outbreaks to people being unwell, COVID continues to present a level of travel uncertainty and therefore heightens the risk of cancellations. As result, holiday let owners should make sure they’re offering flexibility to customers, as this will help boost bookings.
Flexible refund policies will allow people to book their holidays safe in the knowledge that they won’t lose out financially if they need to cancel due to COVID. It’s also worthwhile staying in touch with customers in the run-up to their stay to make sure they’re still planning to attend. This will help avoid any last-minute cancellations that then can’t be replaced.
Welcome a new type of visitor
Thanks to COVID, holiday let owners are now catering to a new type of customer. The flexibility of working remotely, alongside the desire for a change of scenery, means people are starting to combine work and play by booking ‘flexcations’. To make the most of this new trend, hotels and B&Bs should make sure they offer a convenient working space and most importantly, strong Wi-Fi.
Dogs are another new customer to consider. There’s been a staggering rise in people buying pets and 3.2 million were bought during lockdown. Those with dog-friendly accommodation are set to benefit from this, as it’s expected to be a key search term for holidaymakers.
Maximise your marketing
Those keen to make the most of this year’s staycation boom need to maximise their marketing efforts. This starts with the website, and holiday let owners need to ensure it highlights key information, unique selling points, is easy to use and has up-to-date, eye-catching imagery.
This also extends to social media platforms, so ensure the likes of Instagram and Facebook are being used effectively to promote offerings. Owners can also use these channels to attract customers with enticing offers, such as off-season deals to drive revenue during quieter months.
Ultimately the best marketing tactic is the guest experience, so keeping the customer happy is key. Not only do happy customers return, but they inspire others to visit with all-important positive reviews. Whether it’s on Trustpilot, Google reviews, TripAdvisor, or their own platforms, owners should make sure they’re encouraging guests to review their accommodation when checking out.
Make sure that your business is prepared for the staycation boom this summer and maximise the potential of your holiday let to attract more customers. Whether through marketing, last-minute bookings, or ensuring that your safety standards are up to scratch, we can all enjoy a successful summer this year.