As the warmth of summer slowly fades and our thoughts turn to the year ahead, we’ve created an insightful and honest reflection on how the Cornish self-catering sector fared throughout the summer of 2023. We have also looked into holiday letting trends and opportunities for next summer and beyond and are excited to share our findings with you, including some insider tips from Visit Cornwall’s Chief Executive, Malcolm Bell.
In recent years, Cornwall has enjoyed a boom in visitor numbers but for the first time since the onset of Covid, we experienced a summer where travel restrictions were lifted and the option for holidays abroad were back. Despite the lure of international travel, it looks like the trend set during the Covid period for UK ‘staycations’ is here to stay. Of course, no two years are the same and this year we’ve felt the effects of the on-going cost of living crisis but overall we’re pleased to report that bookings have remained steady, with August bookings increasing on the previous year.
We’re also still seeing a growing number of holiday home owners join the Harbour Holidays family with new properties, and we’re continuing to see a growth in wider geographical locations with surrounding areas like Mawgan Porth and Trevone becoming increasingly popular.
Once again, Cornwall has held the top spot as the most visited coastal destination in the UK and according to a new report by the Travelodge Travel Index, a whopping 72 percent of Britons who booked a summer holiday this year stayed in the UK. Of those, 43% are heading to the coast, 25% are off to rural areas like the Lake District and 20% are opting for a city break.
Despite the trend in staycations remaining put, Visit Cornwall figures show an overall reduction of visitor numbers to the south west with an estimated 10% decline for Cornwall (which takes us back to around the 2019 figures) and between 16% – 20% decline for Devon. It’s thought the bad weather at the start of the summer in July, which sadly continued to stay for almost all of the six week school holiday period, played a role in the reduction of people visiting Devon and Cornwall. We recently had the opportunity to speak to Visit Cornwall’s Chief Executive, Malcolm Bell to find out if he thinks of this year and will the bad weather have a knock on effect on bookings for 2024.
“For a true reflection on 2023, we have to go back to 2019 because 2020, 2021 and 2022 were all high numbers due to people not being able to travel or because of the uncertainty. This year we saw the outbound industry targeting our market to go abroad alongside people worrying about the cost of living. Consumers have been much more selective about their holiday looking for ‘value’. Research shows for about this year, 75% of visitors, Cornwall is not their main holiday, it’s a secondary holiday and a lot more have been taken abroad. Cornwall is seen as expensive due to the hike in prices during the pandemic so it’s about offering consumers ‘value for money’ which is more difficult considering the cost of everything has gone up so much.”
He continued “the weather will have a knock on effect but not as much as you think. A lot of people won’t have enjoyed the high temperatures Europe experienced coupled with flight disruptions so will return to holidays in the UK. I have full confidence in the medium to long term but we will go through a short term market adjustment. We will also continue to see short breaks as a trend because it’s a way people can save money whilst still retain the quality of their holiday type. Our immediate challenge in 2024/2025 is to work on the messaging that Cornwall is not an expensive choice even when the weather is bad. Give people ideas of things they can do even when the weather is bad the beach isn’t an option alongside tips on ways to save money when you’re staying e.g. recipes for nights in. If you can also add things into homes like boardgames, books and craft ideas it helps reduce the cost for guests as they are less likely to need to go to attractions. Whatever you can do to add value to your home will greatly help with bookings. Cornwall remains a top destination and the next year or so will just be an adjustment period.”
Although the rain came and stayed for a wetter than average summer, this year was not the worst on record and temperatures remained high throughout the summer months. The majority of the guests we spoke to were not letting the rain dampen their spirits and continued to enjoy their stay in Padstow!
As many of you are aware, customer service and the personal touch is something we endeavour to excel at and as holidays have become more important than ever, looking after our guests, before during and after their stay is our number one priority. We pride ourselves on an above average repeat bookings rate of 60% and we remain committed to helping guests have the best holiday experience possible. Reacting to maintenance issues when they happen and minimising disruption to a stay goes a long way. We now have more staff than ever before at Harbour Holidays to ensure we are always delivering on outstanding customer care.
As the cost of living crisis continues, we forecast that short breaks will continue to be in demand. According to research conducted by Go.Compare Travel Insurance, short breaks have had the sharpest increase of any holiday type which reflects our experience with more requests from customers for long weekends and mid-week stays than ever before.
Not only is taking shorter stays a way for consumers to keep costs down but it also allows people to take 2 -3 breaks a year instead of only the traditional two week summer holiday of years gone by. We’re already seeing this reflected in booking figures for 2024 as more and more guests are choosing shorter breaks throughout the year. We hope that this trend will help fill the ‘shoulder months’ as short autumn and winter breaks gain in popularity.
Spontaneity is here and we are learning to embrace and accept it. Early bird bookings have forever been the travel industry’s go-to strategy but in these post Covid times, many people are doing the exact opposite. According to industry insights and our own booking data, the average lead time for bookings is getting shorter. During the period between planning and booking a trip, travellers are showing a greater anxiety than pre-Covid times with trips being booked as close as one week out from the date of check-in. In an ever turbulent and uncertain world, this trend looks like it’s only going to get stronger with even same day check-ins thought to become more popular.
For you, as the owners, and for us marketing your properties, we’re learning to hold steady and not discount or drop the price too early as homes are filling much later than we are used to. This is something we are actively adapting to to make sure our team is flexible and available to handle all last minute requests.
Another trend which emerged prominently this summer was the emphasis on sustainability and guests showing a growing interest in eco-friendly holiday options. This is important not only to protect the environment and our fragile Cornish communities, but it can also bring you great benefits as property owners, helping to reduce running costs and attracting more eco-conscious guest bookings. Here are a few recommendations to help you make your home more sustainable –
At Harbour Holidays, we are committed to sustainability and will continue to weave this into our external communications reminding guests to recycle, conserve energy and care for our local environment. If you would like any further advice about making your home more environmentally friendly or you’d like some details about electric car point installers, please give our team a call.
As the likes of Airbnb and Booking.com continue to push ‘experiences’ to guests at the centre of their marketing, personalised guest experiences are becoming a priority. From welcome hampers to comprehensive guides about the local area listing attractions and services guests will love as well as making sure you have all the basics covered providing, tea, coffee, sugar, toilet rolls, washing up liquid and complimentary dishwasher tablets.
The consumer trends continue to show guests are also seeking out ‘the different’ for that ultimate holiday experience. Popular added extras include pizza ovens, coffee machines and items such as stand up paddle boards, surfboards and kayaks available for guest use. Allowing a property to be dog friendly is also a highly regarded feature and WiFi is now considered a basic amenity rather than a luxury. Over forthcoming months we’ll be sharing tips on how to maximise your property’s potential.
With summer stays and bookings in general holding very steady for this year against the recent boom of the Covid years, the outlook for 2024 is looking very bright and busy. Despite the trend in last minute bookings, we’ve already seen an increase in advanced bookings for 2024 against where we were this time last year. The staycation market is still very well loved and we’re here to make sure your home is as occupied as possible and ensure repeat bookings.
Nicky Stanley (Director of Harbour Holidays) says,
“This summer and year has demonstrated that despite on-going economic challenges our market and demand for holidays in Padstow are strong. We continue to strive to be the leading holiday letting agent in Padstow and the surrounding areas. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you, our owners, as well as our dedicated team and loyal customers who return to us year after year for a trusted unforgettable experience.”
Here’s to a fantastic 2023 so far. We’re looking forward to a wonderful winter ahead and many more happy holidays in 2024.
Call - 01841 533402