What will happen to summer 2020 in the UK?
May 11, 2020
The latest announcement from the UK government is showing signs that people may finally be able to ease back into the world, albeit at a slower pace than some would like. Many questions are left open at the moment, mainly what will happen to summer 2020 in the UK? The summer is significant for us because it is the high season for school holidays, tourism and family get-togethers. In essence, summer is the time when people travel and the industries that support that travel make the bulk of their revenue.
As it stands, the government has released the first draft of a roadmap that could see some of the hospitality industry return by July - that bodes well for short-term rental operators and accommodation providers with seasonal voids, such as Student blocks where there is a natural void in the summer. A July reopen ensures that the peak month of August will be available to UK travellers, when any schools that may have opened are out and before the anticipated return to normal term times in September. According to the Office of National Statistics report on Overseas Travel and Tourism for August 2019: there were 4.1 million visits to the UK by overseas residents in August 2019. Additionally, there were 9.4 million visits overseas for UK citizens in August 2019 - both were an increase on the 2018 figures. So, it should give some hope that, while August 2020 may not return to the same level of occupancy as before the pandemic, demand should be strong.
Don’t write summer 2020 off just yet
We are seeing the early signs of green shoots globally. Carnival Cruise lines, beleaguered by their handling of the 1,500 coronavirus cases on nine of their ships, has seen a 200% increase YoY for their return on August 1st. In parallel, Disneyland Shanghai announced (at short notice) that their doors would open on May 11. Tickets for the reopening sold out in a matter of minutes - a clear indication that pent up travellers are eager to stretch their legs, even if it means adapting to new regulations. Our own data is already showing some positive signs of recovery, with cancellations falling to an all-time daily low since lockdown. We’ve also witnessed the highest single days of new bookings over the past week (seen across our entire platform’s network of properties).
Focus on domestic travel
The latest government announcement stated that international arrivals to the UK by air (except for those from Ireland and France) will be subject to a quarantine measure of 14 days prior to onward travel. This is undoubtedly a blow to the aviation industry as well as the travel and hospitality sectors. The thought of sitting around in a property for 2 weeks at their own expense, after having been locked down for months, will not motivate many international travellers to visit the UK anytime soon. With that knock-on effect, airlines will ground more flights, making flying out of the UK more difficult and expensive. The Health Secretary has also furthered that point, announcing that, "many British people are unlikely to be able to take foreign holidays this summer."
With nowhere else to go, many Britons will turn their focus inward and explore more of what the UK has to offer. In 2019, 46.4 million domestic holiday trips were taken in the UK - 31.6 million of those were short breaks of 1-3 nights (according to the VisitBritain GB Tourism Survey 2019). If the UK sees the expected surge in domestic travel, there will be a large increase in demand for accommodation, and many will be looking to avoid areas of high-traffic and shared social spaces such as those in hotels. So how can short-term holiday rental operators, Student and Build-to-rent accommodation providers make the most of this opportunity?
Make the most of the opportunity
In order to meet any newly imposed government regulations, traveller concerns and ensure safety of guests and your teams, we have provided some tips to take into consideration when getting ready for domestic travellers:
Be preparedA surge in demand will be welcome news but it is devastating to businesses who are unprepared and miss out. While many travellers regularly use OTAs (eg Airbnb, Booking.com) to book their stays, others will be searching for better deals directly, a more premium experience or something entirely different. Offering a direct-booking website is a way to showcase your properties to a wider audience, build your brand, accept payments directly and avoid fees of the OTAs. Be ready now to make the best of this summer.
Be responsible"Safe & Healthy" will be the mantra of the new traveller. Ensure to provide clear information on when and how your property is cleaned, ready to share at a moment’s notice. For guidance around cleaning procedures, see Airbnb's Enhanced Cleaning Protocol or VRMA's SafeHome Cleaning Guidelines. If you have yet to embrace technology to keep this information in real-time, now is the perfect opportunity. Travellers (and possibly governments) will likely expect to see your operation is handled through time-stamped logs and strong audit trails.
Be flexibleEven with travellers eager to get away, plans may change last-minute. Be flexible to their needs and you will create a loyal following. With planned Covid-19 tracking apps in place, travellers may need to cancel due to self-isolation; you may need to delay a booking for additional cleaning. Either way, flexibility and calendar management will be crucial to providing a safer and healthier experience for travellers and your team.
Be secureGuests will have many questions in these early stages, it’s important that you are able to provide information quickly and allay any concerns. If you are also operating outside of an OTA, you will want the ability to vet your guests. While some providers still use email for guest communications, travellers may not feel as comfortable providing ID information on the web. Adopt a guest communications tool that provides security and storage for sensitive documents and information.
We are all looking forward to the day when we can freely move and travel again - and for the first time since the crisis, we are now beginning to see some form of recovery evidenced by data. However, with the world emerging from this crisis in different stages, it’s important to note that change may appear in a series of sprints and stalls. We recommend, especially for those with large seasonal voids this summer to expect a surge in domestic demand for alternative accommodation, and ready themselves to explore a mix of short and long-term strategies across your assets. No matter your approach to the market, Lavanda is always available to answer your questions, share our knowledge and help you make the best decisions for your business in this new world.
Lavanda is an award-winning SaaS platform used by the world's leading vacation rental, student and multifamily operators to increase NOI through short and medium term rentals. Clients include Greystar, CA Ventures, JLL, Savills and LaSalle amongst others.