Despite a turbulent start to the year, it appears many of us may get a summer holiday after all, though perhaps not in the way we’d imagined.
Major advances have been made in recent weeks for the travel industry, with the UK government announcing the list of countries from which returning travellers will no longer have to quarantine. Whilst much closer to home, the domestic hospitality sector is also reopening for business. But where will UK holidaymakers go?
With increased fears around flying, busy airports as well as concerns regarding getting stuck abroad due to localised outbreaks of Covid-19, it’s staycation locations that are expected to boom for 2020, partly owing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Summer Economic Update, urging the British public to get out there and help kickstart an economic recovery.
As such, many UK holiday firms have seen rocketing demand since official announcements have been made, with bookings of both camping and caravanning holidays and holiday park getaways soaring since restrictions began to ease.
One such UK holiday specialist are Park Holidays, who are the largest holiday park operator along the South Coast, and Marketing Director, Geoff Barnes, shared his thoughts and insights regarding the recent surge and what the future of travel may look like.
Have you noticed a dramatic increase in staycation bookings?
“Definitely. We had noticed a dramatic surge in bookings within minutes of the government announcing that holiday parks could open on 4th July. Our website visits reached record levels for this time of year and that increased demand continued for the next 10 days before returning to near-normal levels.”
It’s positive to see people are keen to travel again – especially to a staycation locvation. What preparation went into ensuring you can efficiently deal with current demands?
“We took a very simple and proactive approach to customer refunds. All customers affected by restrictions on travel and leisure activities as a result of the virus could choose between a full refund or a change of holiday arrival dates and an extra discount off their re-booked holiday.
“We expected a surge in demand once restrictions were lifted, so we focussed all our efforts on either re-booking or refunding customers quickly so that staff were ready and available to handle enquiries and bookings when the time came. Our holiday refunds were being processed and paid back to customers within 7 days of the customer deciding what they wanted to do.
“We also ran several stress tests on our website to make sure we could handle website visits several times greater than normal numbers. We invested in new website architecture to ensure the website was available to our customers 24/7 .”
Travel firms providing great customer service in these difficult times are likely to win out in the long-term. For now, are there any facilities onsite that are off-limits? If so, when do you think they’re likely to reopen?
“Our parks are well suited to social distancing and good hygiene protocols as all of our accommodation is self-catering and at least 5 meters away from the nearest holiday home. Unfortunately, the Government have decided, for the time being, that we are unable to open our swimming pools or deliver live entertainment shows or dancing. We hope this decision will be reviewed very soon.”
With that said, what can people expect their holidays to look like if they’ve booked a staycation in July and August?
“I think it’s safe to say that we all have a newfound appreciation for the great British staycation, coast and countryside. Our parks are perfectly situated to provide customers access to the great outdoors whether that be visiting a nearby beach or exploring our wonderful countryside. On the park, our bars, restaurants and many leisure activities will be available to all guests in a safe and secure environment.”
Are you also seeing an increased interest in holiday home ownership?
“Yes, we are staggered by the level of interest in people keen to buy their very own holiday home. Sales during the last 3 weeks have been almost double that of the previous year and the demand is still strong. We believe the combination of health risks, the expense and hassle of overseas travel and uncertainty around Brexit has highlighted the appeal of caravan and lodge ownership at a holiday park. Being able to jump in your car and be on holiday in an hour or two whenever you choose is very appealing to people who have been locked down for several months.”
Do you think the “staycation” is here to stay?
“Absolutely, the staycation is certainly here to stay. As we mentioned before, travelling abroad, whether people are concerned about health, the hassle or the increased cost has meant people will turn more to the UK as a preferred destination. Holiday parks and UK hospitality in general have worked hard to match the increasingly sophisticated needs of the British customer.
“Experiential breaks where guests join in with activities rather than just observe an activity or event has become a key requirement of today’s holiday guest. So you’re just as likely to see a family buzzing around our park grounds on an electric Segway machine as you are seeing them sit back and enjoy our entertainment. There is a trend in the UK towards multiple short breaks rather than a traditional week or 2-week holiday, and if the travel time is dramatically reduced and made easier with an accessible UK resort, we are perfectly positioned to satisfy those demands.”
Makes sense to us! Looking forward, what can holiday experts such as yourselves do to sustain the momentum of the staycation?
“Quite simply, if we provide an exceptional experience for our guests, they will return – and bring their friends and family with them. Our guests expect spotlessly clean, comfortable and spacious accommodation, good quality and value for money food and drink, entertainment that features activities during the day as well as the more traditional live shows – and all of this at an affordable price.”
When and how the international tourism industry recovers from the current crisis remains to be seen, but with the outlook for the staycation industry looking a little more positive, thankfully British holidaymakers still have plenty of appealing options closer to home.