As England and Wales holiday operators are flooded with last-minute bookings, is Autumn the new August for the UK Travel Industry?
After an unprecedented rush in bookings for staycations across July and August, UK campsites and self-catering accommodation owners have experienced some of the biggest highs and lows ever this year, losing all their income from spring breaks due to the lockdown, then a complete reversal of fortunes since accommodation re-opened with owners now having to turn away bookings and some campsites charging as much per night as holiday cottages for a patch of grass with hookups.
Despite only recently re-opening, some owners are reporting that Autumn is looking almost as busy as August for bookings. However, it isn’t only lockdown and a lack of availability that is seeing the Autumn months in demand – some tourists prefer to come when things are quieter. We spoke to some UK accommodation providers to see how things are looking for them after the slow start to the traditional Summer season:
Cornish Self Catering Cottage:
Kate Hinton, co-owner of newly launched Porthcothan Mill Cottage, located in Cornwall, says:
“For those not tied to the school holidays, there are so many benefits to enjoying a holiday this Autumn in the UK. The months of September and October offer much more choice of accommodation, you can avoid the crowds, it is often cheaper outside of the peak summer months, and the weather and sea temperatures can often be as good as July and August. These months are also great for wildlife spotting with migratory birds and butterflies more prominent at this time of year.”
New this season, Porthcothan Mill Cottage is a perfect example of a location that is likely to prove popular all year round. The 16th century mill cottage is just a 5 minute walk across a field to Porthcothan Bay, a dog friendly beach – and the cottage is already booked until mid-September.
Located at the end of a private road in a tranquil valley, the cottage, is a 10/15 minute drive to many of north Cornwall’s popular locations including Padstow and Watergate Bay. The cottage has a range of original character features, and has been thoughtfully renovated and furnished with a mix of new, vintage and recycled furniture including vintage items such as a Paul Metalcraft kitchen with reclaimed iroko worktops. Some of the items in the cottage have been sourced from local vintage shops, and artists. Designed to be comfortable throughout the year, the cottage is gas centrally heated, has a log burning stove, and a kadai – perfect for an evening bbq or for huddling up during those cooler evenings.
To learn more about Porthcothan Mill Cottage, visit here: http://porthcothanmillcottage.co.uk/
Pembrokeshire campsite owner, Geraint Jenkins, still under Welsh lockdown restrictions until 25 July, says despite not opening for campers yet, both Summer and Autumn bookings at his campsite, Dunston Hill, are filling fast – but unlike some, he hasn’t inflated his prices this year:
“We are well established and many of our clients are seasonal caravan owners – but I had guests provisionally enquiring about camping bookings for August, September and October long before the Welsh Government officially announced we would be able to open next week, many of whom have not stayed with us before. It isn’t surprising – I’ve heard reports of some campsites in England charging up to £60 per night for a basic pitch (with extra fees for electric, children over 10, dogs, awnings and so on), fees for these sites mount up and can easily exceed the cost for staying in a motel room or holiday cottage. Many are trying Wales for the first time, it seems many aren’t prepared to pay the increases from campsite owners taking advantage.
“We are minutes from Newgale Beach and our prices remain extremely competitive, and we tend to be popular across the season anyway. I’m just looking forward to welcoming our regulars and some new faces, it’s a bit of a labour of love for us.”
To learn more about Dunston Hill Campsite, visit here: https://dunstonhillcampsite.co.uk/
Gower Self Catering Holiday Cottages:
Gower holiday cottage owner/operator, Jon Dickson, who runs Hael Farm Cottages with his wife Julie, says since re-opening earlier this month, their five star equipped holiday cottages are now almost full until October – with bookings through December and into next year:
“Our cottages are open all year round, and we were full up until October back in March! It was heartbreaking to see a flood of cancellations and postponements after lockdown, but we were able to support some keyworkers with accommodation. Literally within minutes of Mark Drakeford’s re-opening announcements, our guests began re-booking. We now only have a handful of short break dates left in September, with some bookings already for November and December, priced from £90 per night and sleeping from 5-14 people. Our Port Eynon cottages are 100m from a blue flag beach and Hael Farm Cottage is simply idyllic, approached down a long winding drive which opens into a beautiful clearing. It’s only 5 minutes drive from Three Cliffs Bay and Pennard Golf course, with all Gower’s other attractions within easy reach.
Both Geraint and Jon experience regular visitors who come year after year, something they expect Kate to also experience. Jon says:
“We couldn’t give this business up if we wanted to, our guests have become our friends and extended family, we see their children grow up, we send each other Christmas cards, running holiday accommodation is hard work, but it’s also a lifestyle, not a job – in fact we spent lockdown creating a pond for our guests to enjoy and our dog, Alfie, loves visitors as much as we do!”
With the UK holiday season this year set to run through September and October – and possibly even November for holiday cottage owners, could lockdown extend the UK holiday season permanently? For these committed operators, who lost so much at the start of the season, we certainly hope so!