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UK staycations: 9 ways to make them…stay

UPDATE: Download our Staycations report – “Exploring our Island” here: https://lab.unlimitedgroup.com/exploring-our-island

Lockdown forced us to rethink international and domestic travel

Pre-COVID, the UK domestic tourism industry was in good shape: visitor numbers had been growing from both international and home-grown visitors and this growth was broadly expected to continue, with forecasts from both Visit Britain (link) and Cambridge & Counties Bank (link) bullish about the future for staycations.

And then, of course, the world changed. Lockdown shut the industry down totally. Customers focused on getting refunded for previously booked travel and this gave the industry a significant cashflow challenge. Frustrated travellers got their travel fix via TV shows and VR travel. Brands responded by trying to keep confidence in the market by offering price and refund guarantees and destinations tried to encourage travellers to book ahead for 2021.

The great Summer getaway 2020-style as lockdown eased

As travel started to become possible again, travellers were confronted with difficult choices – to travel abroad and risk infection and/or needing to self-isolate – or not. This is where staycations – of all forms, including B&Bs, camping and motorhomes – came into their own.

UK holiday homes, B&Bs and campsites all briefly enjoyed bumper days as consumers wary of having to quarantine if they did go abroad sought to navigate the regulations and get a holiday of some kind causing sales of tents and both sales and rentals of caravans and motor homes to surge.

‘Glampervanning’ anyone?

As we head towards Christmas peoples’ thoughts will naturally turn towards 2021. For sure, there will be a huge appetite for foreign travel but, with rumours of a second lockdown circulating and a vaccine seemingly unlikely before next Spring, it may be that our travel will continue to be largely domestic rather than exotic for some time to come.

While those involved in foreign travel will be working as hard as they can to persuade us that’s the way to go, the domestic travel industry will, most likely have a market composed of both those who would have holidayed in the UK anyway and those doing so rather more reluctantly.

As the domestic tourism industry looks to the longer-term the key challenge is surely how to make the staycation the norm rather than the exception. Staycationing certainly has a number of factors in its favour: here is our checklist of factors for UK visitor attractions and travel and accommodation providers to bear in mind, both the strengths to stress and threats from those offering foreign travel to counteract:

  1. Leverage nostalgia: Many of today’s Gen X and millennial parents will have had holidays in the UK while growing up. Their memories of those holidays are strong: happy, simpler times and laughing at the misfortunes of bad weather. Encourage them to take their own kids to the “old haunts” and create their own memories for the future.
  2. Stress the health factor: British holidays cannot rely on the promise of two weeks unbroken sunshine and time poolside. Instead, they are an opportunity for action, variety and exploration. Promote the great outdoors and the joy of life under canvas.
  3. No such thing as bad weather: As the saying goes, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing”, so attempt both to shift the mindset of your potential guests and, where possible, to weather-proof your offering.
  4. Hidden secrets: Another factor that sends people abroad is the idea of discovery: new foods, new cultures, new sights: but all of these can be found in the UK too. Help visitors to fuel their Insta feed by flagging up the UK’s gems hidden in plain sight.
  5. All in this together: When Boris Johnson described it as “our patriotic duty” to go back to the pubs when they reopened in June/July, he was attempting to realise that it is all of our interests to ensure that local businesses survive. Spending our money in our local area and in the UK rather than abroad can be positioned as a collective effort to reboot our economy. Stress the collective benefit of money earned and spent in the UK.
  6. The greener choice: Worldwide tourism accounts for some 8% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions and flying accounts for 75% of tourism’s overall footprint. In this context, staycationing represents the greener choice.
  7. It is all our countryside: There is an opportunity for those seeking to profit from staycationing to act as guardians of their locations.
  8. Don’t be afraid to go glam, high tech or quirky: There’s no denying that camping, caravans and motorhomes have something of an image problem. In the same way that glamping revolutionised the festival going experience, caravans and motorhomes could do with a makeover, so strive to add the tech, the quirky and the indulgent to your offerings to make up for the “deprivation” of missing out on that trip abroad.
  9. Flexible access models for caravans and motorhomes: Caravans and motorhomes aren’t cheap. Copy from what the car industry has done: purchase is now just one avenue to accessing car-based mobility and s well as traditional hire models, customers can now choose from a variety of new access models such as PCP, fractional ownership, microhire, subscriptions, etc, and caravans/motorhomes need to offer the same degree of choice and flexibility.

This article was written by Nick Chiarelli, Head of Trends at UNLIMITED.

UPDATE: Download our Staycations report – “Exploring our Island” here: https://lab.unlimitedgroup.com/exploring-our-island