By Ryan Haynes, host of Travel Market Life podcast from Haynes MarComs. (http://travelmarket.life)
Millions more Brits are holidaying at home this year, which is good news for hotel and accommodation operators. But how can they stand out among an array of staycation options?
The combination of cancelled flights and airport chaos, a cost-of-living crisis and the summer heatwave have convinced millions more Brits to holiday at home. This summer’s Staycation Index, produced by Sykes Holiday Cottages, says 77% of UK residents plan to enjoy at least one holiday in the UK this year and 46% will make it their main summer break.
An estimated 26 million British will take staycations this year boosting the economy by £15.5 billion. After years of restrictions, this is welcome news for hotel and hospitality operators in hard-hit rural and seaside economies. But competition for guests is intense and the most successful operators will take time to study trends in the staycation market.
Flight disruptions strike
The trend for staying home became apparent in April when Google trends data showed searches for UK holidays had risen by 56% compared to a year earlier. And ONS data indicated that visits overseas had dropped 33% on pre-pandemic levels – from 8.4 million in 2019 to 5.6 million in April 2022. Half-term chaos at airports in May accelerated these trends. And the even worse disruption in July at airports and the port of Dover put more people off travelling overseas.
Budgetary pressures were also an important factor for 35% of the British. The index showed 50% were saving money by planning fewer holidays in 2022 than normal and 44% intended to book multiple staycations. On average, they were planning three shorter UK breaks rather than one longer holiday abroad.
Despite the rise in popularity of staycations, there are no guarantees of success for operators. Paradoxically, the trend for shorter breaks has meant some hotels and B&Bs – even in England’s popular West Country resorts – have struggled to fill rooms. Many cash-strapped visitors are staying for a few days instead of a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, B&B owners in Torbay, for example, have complained about the market being oversaturated by Airbnbs.
So, what can operators do to attract staycationers?
One: React to staycation trends
The Sykes index shows the top three influencing factors for choice of staycation are whether properties have gardens, quality of WiFi, and proximity to a beach. Other attractive elements include being pet-friendly, a hot tub and a pub. Promote your offering in property descriptions, and use room rate insights from the likes of IDeaS RMS to optimise pricing to secure bookings ahead of competitors.
Two: Promote staycation offers
It’s worth creating special staycation promotional offers for guests who book directly, such as free breakfast or tickets to a local attraction. It’s a way of standing out from competitors and OTAs and makes the booking offer more valuable. The booking process should be easy and carefree to encourage higher-value bookings, consider an all-in-one booking solution like onejourney to include Spa and dining options – this way guests can see all the products available at your property.
Three: Focus on direct bookings
Selling through third parties and OTAs is expensive business, commissions are high and you don’t own the guest data to sell ancillary products or invite them back. Encouraging direct bookings will help build long-term relationships with staycationers. While special offers help, using a simple booking system makes the process effortless for guests. It’s worth speaking to your provider to know how the right room product can be shown to website visitors in the first instance, new technology like Arvoia Hotel AI is making room selection quick and simple for guests.
Four: Ease operations
The shortfall in hospitality staff in the UK is already impacting many staycation experiences. Hotels are having to limit occupancy or significantly reduce services. However it’s essential to maintain guest satisfaction. Look to automation to manage bookings, reservations and guest communications, as well as contactless and mobile technologies to reduce the pressure on staff. Guests can self-service with check-in hubs like SIHOT.KIOSK, make payments by mobile, and use QR codes or web apps to make additional orders.