UK: Jake Stone, UK country manager at RV rental agency Goboony, discusses what we can expect from the staycation market and how the motorhome industry can benefit as the UK prepares to ease its Covid-enforced lockdowns in the coming months.
Although almost half of 2020 was condemned to strict travel restrictions, we witnessed an unprecedented boom in the UK staycation market. This year is proving to see even more of a surge as the staycation, with socially distanced measures in place, looks set to be a definite possibility later on, so long as infection rates continue to drop and vaccinations keep on track.
People are naturally craving a change of scenery, something to look forward to and, most importantly, an element of freedom. Last year rekindled so many visitors’ love for the UK: igniting a desire to rediscover, reconnect and enjoy the physical and mental health benefits the great outdoors provides too.
Although only in our first quarter of the year we are already seeing the following trends emerge for the year ahead:
- Longer trips
Traditionally in the UK, we see more shorter bookings than any other country. Brits seem to prefer five to six days in a campervan, whilst those in the Netherlands tend to choose an average booking length of nine days in the summer.
Early UK booking requests from late April onwards are showing an average of seven days, which I put down to people having every intention to make up for lost time.
- Staying closer to home
The initial assumption was that lengthier trips were being made for people to travel further from home. Our statistics show that the average distance from pickup to destination has decreased slightly, with individuals booking motorhomes closest to their residence, and are choosing to stay within their own county.
We always offer the option for individuals to pay for additional mileage if they intend to take the motorhome over a great distance, but those opting for this additional extra have dramatically decreased since 2020.
- New uses of a motorhome
In the past, a motorhome was almost always booked with the intention of travel and camping. What we are seeing now, is a trend in travellers booking a motorhome as a means of accommodation outside a family or friends home, to keep safe and socially distanced. Many high-risk individuals or essential workers are arranging a motorhome in order to stay safe and / or protect others, and we are also seeing a surge in those taking full advantage of the ‘work from anywhere’ culture.
- Last-minute bookings
In the days following the most recent government announcement on 22 February, Goboony saw a massive 250 per cent rise in organic traffic to the website. Individuals were quick to begin researching holidays given that some light at the end of the tunnel was starting to glimmer.
Our data has always shown UK residents as the ones most likely to book last-minute holidays than other countries.
In Italy, motorhome bookings are usually arranged an average of three months prior, and in the Netherlands and Belgium, it is five months. Still, last summer we saw the average time between booking and departure date drastically decrease to an average of three weeks before.
Despite the high number of requests currently coming in, I do believe we will see an influx of last-minute bookings later this year as confidence in holidaymakers rises. There is naturally a concern with booking too far ahead and time is most definitely needed for prospective holidaymakers to feel comfortable in making travel arrangements spontaneously.
- Looser travel seasons
The majority of travel companies consider the peak season to be between June – August. This coincides with school holidays, warmer weather and the event season, and currently occupies 90 per cent of our year’s booking because motorhome holidays are considered seasonal.
In 2020, we noticed that this trend was being disrupted, as our busiest months were August and September, despite campsites being open from June. We also saw that bookings continued as late as November.
Incoming requests suggest that the traditional travel seasons will be foregone, as requested dates are spreading across April to September so far. Individuals may intentionally book their holiday for ‘non-peak’ time to reduce crowds and obtain lower prices, as those without children are not as restricted to when they can travel.
This could also be a sign of impatience, as individuals are keen to travel again and do not want to wait until the summer. I believe that the cancellation of events is also influencing it, many of our Glastonbury bookings for example have now been moved, and others may be booking in lieu of an event this summer.
I believe it is likely these trends will remain embedded in the UK market for some time, especially as the easing of lockdown is done so in a realistic manner. It is fantastic to see so many travel organisations adapting to the situation by offering more flexible cancellation policies and prioritising off-peak travel, which may influence how most of the population views travel.
This, combined with Brexit, suggests that the staycation will continue to grow in popularity as individuals seize the chance to explore their home country, in less traditional and more unique ways.
Goboony is one of the UK’s leading platforms connecting motorhome owners and travellers. Inspired by Airbnb, Mark de Vos and Foppe Mijnlieff started the Goboony platform to focus on the motorhome and camper van community. The company now has over 3,500 vehicles on its platform, and it has already sent more than 100,000 people on holiday from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Italy and Belgium.