As in life these days (hello Prime Minister Sunak), making predictions about, almost anything, seems to have been increasingly tricky.
It’s not even really predictions we’re into, but we do like to plan to try and give our owners the best analysis we can of the holiday market right now, so we had to ask ourselves what, if anything, has the effect of this extraordinary period of turbulence been on our bookings?
We already knew that the strongest trend in the UK holiday letting market over the past year has been the move to last minute bookings. Recently guests have been opting to book just days rather than weeks ahead and those breaks have been getting shorter with one-night stays growing in popularity in most of our Kent properties.
However, surprisingly for us and against all the odds what with the wall to wall media reporting of the negative mood music, our guests’ confidence to spend hard earned holiday cash is high. Say it quietly, but bookings for our properties in Kent are strong. Last weeks’ half term bookings up nearly 170% on where they were in 2021. So are we bucking the trend? Are we completely off key and out of time with the economic gloom tune? We went back to the data to try and find some answers on what our bookings look now now and what that could mean for the coming months.
From our current data we can see that our guests are demanding a greater flexibility for the period that they are prepared to stay. They now looking for two, three or four nights instead of a standard seven. Why jam everyone into the car on a Friday night and rush out of the door they’re thinking? Why not try arriving on a Monday or Tuesday in half term? At least the M25 may be a bit friendlier by then.
For owners, what does this matter? Certainly the ‘down time’ is not so down. October’s half term break has traditionally been just a week but increasingly many schools are now opting for a longer 10 day or even two week breather with not all of them starting on the same day either. Not ideal for anyone trying to piece together the childcare puzzle but for holiday let owners it means they must now expect a longer curve in bookings in October; maybe the window to get all those ‘end of summer’ jobs done won’t be quite as generous as it once was.
The increase in shorter breaks also means obviously more changeovers, increased cleaning and more admin but it’s also an opportunity for other local businesses, the cafes, restaurants and attractions which Kent is so well known. A greater influx of visitors at varying days of the week may help flatten the weekend curve and spread the footfall out in the week. Current staffing difficulties to one side for now (and assuming a flatline, rather than dipping economy), this may have positive effects on the local hospitality economy in Kent in the longer term.
On another brighter note, our data tells us that our guests are increasingly likely to book ahead now which says to us that the ‘covid confidence’ wobble is far behind us. Summer 2023 reservations are sailing up our booking charts with some of the larger houses with pools (particularly) already booked out. We think families who want to holiday together next year are simply going for it, again, marking a change in the mood music here. They’re still, possibly, making up for lost time.
For now, for us, this half term has given us cause to be optimistic that although times are undeniably tough, holidays, short breaks, family celebrations, anniversary parties and every other sort of getaway are, for now, on the ‘to do’ list for 2023. Come whatever ‘permacrisis’ we find ourselves in.