Seven learnings as the short stay sector enjoys its first week of reopening

UK: With the tourism and hospitality sector having enjoyed its first full week of reopening, the UK Short Term Accommodation Association [STAA] asked its members about their experiences.

There were seven key learnings for the sector:

  1. Enquiries are up significantly on this time last year
  2. Bookings in rural settings have been the most popular, with the South Coast, Cornwall, the Lake District and the North Yorkshire Moors standing out as favoured locations
  3. There has been a slower recovery for city-based properties but evidence of an increase in the average number of nights stays
  4. The new cleaning protocols have been straightforward to implement and guests have welcomed the clarity and transparency of information they have been given about them
  5. Remote check-ins and contactless key collections are the new norm for the sector
  6. New services such as ‘fridge fills’ are being offered by companies so that guests do not have to visit the supermarket, minimising their contact with other people
  7. More property owners are exploring short-term letting to take advantage of the UK holiday boom

With international travel, both in and out of the UK, severely restricted at the moment, the UK staycation boom should bring a much-needed injection of expenditure into local communities and businesses that depend heavily on tourism for their livelihoods.

Merilee Karr, chair of the UK STAA, said: “It is very encouraging to see British holidaymakers taking advantage of the short-term accommodation offered here in the UK. The work that we, as an industry, have done on implementing new cleaning protocols must have gone a long way to reassuring customers of the safety and cleanliness of holiday rental properties.

“There is a unique opportunity for UK holidaymakers to visit UK destinations, including both city and rural destinations. With short-term rentals providing socially distanced accommodation and cities being quieter, without the usual hustle and bustle, it’s a great time for people  across the country to explore everything the UK has to offer.

“Whilst rural and coastal properties have seen the biggest demand for week-long breaks in the first week of reopening, we are now seeing a surge in the UK’s cities for short-term breaks. Without the influx of international travellers, there are fewer crowds, and some great initiatives like London shutting roads to create a European style café culture, an exciting development we hope will last,” she added.

Veeve CEO David Hosking said: “We have seen a new trend in cities of much longer stays, because more people are now able to work remotely. In many cases guests are booking up to 30 nights and more – because they know they don’t have to travel to their offices.

“Private homes offer the best fit for this sort of customer. We’ve had overwhelmingly positive responses from customers about the in-stay services we offer such as fridge fills prior to their arrival so they don’t have to venture out to the supermarket and private airport pick-ups in cars with safety screens,” he added.

Sykes Holiday Cottages CEO Graham Donoghue said: “We have been delighted by customers’ responses to the re-opening. Our volume of enquires is up 300 per cent year-on-year and our bookings are constantly up over 100 per cent. And we are looking at 90 per cent occupancy rates for August, with October half term and Christmas also selling well.

“With regard to the new cleaning protocols, owners have really stepped up to the mark. Later check-ins and earlier check-outs have helped to give cleaners enough time to thoroughly clean properties.

“Guest have expressed their gratitude for the information that they have been given about cleaning standards. The first changeover weekend presenting us with no problems whatsoever so we are looking forward now to the rest of the season with great confidence,” he added.

UnderTheDoormat COO Richard Bridger said: “One of the areas of the market we have focused on is London-based office workers returning to work.

“They want to avoid as much commuting on public transport as possible so we are offering them the opportunity to stay over for a few nights at a time, within walking distance of their place of work. And, with the school holidays nearly upon us, we are seeing an increased demand from families who want to visit London’s tourist attractions without the usual crowds and international visitors.

“Our homeowners and guests have been reassured by our transparent cleaning standards and the official ‘Good to Go’ accreditation from Visit England that gives them confidence we are looking after them by following government and industry Covid-19 guidelines,” he added.

Onefinestay chief markets officer Lavina Liyanage said: “We are seeing an increase in last-minute bookings as people’s confidence returns. Our most popular destination amongst UK enquiries and searches is London which tells us there is also a market for non-London residents booking rentals in the capital.

“These guests are looking to stay in some of our larger homes with features such as open living spaces, games rooms, private gardens, rooftop terraces, personal gyms and fully equipped kitchens. Booking longer stays, asking about enhanced housekeeping protocols and guest support, they are looking to settle in, relax and privately enjoy all that their home-from-home has to offer,” she added.

ALTIDO regional general manager Jeremy Slater said: “Our rural locations are operating at around 90 per cent occupancy whereas we still have space in our city properties. We have been very clear to our guests about our new procedures for enhanced cleaning and we are offering self-check-ins or full PPE socially distanced check-ins.

“Guests largely favour having one of our hospitality specialists at the door to greet them,” he added.

The new industry cleaning protocols that the STAA developed provide high-level principles to follow in preparing a property correctly for incoming guests and cleaning it during and after their stay. They focus on three main areas:

  • Conducting a risk assessment of each property
  • Recommended cleaning protocols
  • Safely managing contact with guests

Full details can be found here.