Cautious hoteliers are being reminded not to wait for the Christmas period to update their facilities as the number of late-year bookings has soared.
Experts believe this could be the start of a larger trend of “fifth season” travel where British families are rediscovering the UK as a holiday destination. Many of these may have enjoyed similar adventures when they were young and they are now passing the same experience onto their children.
The evidence for this is that the period between summer and autumn, sometimes called "Sortumn", has seen a 61% increase in reservations. This is mostly due to more rooms being booked at properties which classify themselves as ‘family-friendly’ compared to the same time last year.
This is due to consistent increases in temperature and relatively warm seas in the late September and early October period, say industry advisors. Looking at recent data, average temperatures in 2016 saw the late-year climate come close to an extended summer.
Looked at over the longer period, this pattern has also seen some parts of the country recording their annual highest temperatures in the late summer to autumn period. These milder conditions have set a pattern of holidaymakers taking trips in the traditional off season. This, in turn, is increasing the number of hotel and guesthouse bookings in every part of the country.
According to data from a recent survey of accommodation providers, the time between 1 September to 30 November sees bookings for bed and breakfast accommodation up 18% overall from the previous year. This includes a 40% increase in Northern Ireland and 30% in Scotland.
The South Coast of England particularly benefits from this. Bookings in Penzance were reportedly up 32%, increases in Torquay were of up to 29%, and 23% more rooms were taken in Bournemouth at the time of the survey.
This increase in business in a traditionally quieter period throws up challenges for hotel management teams that would usually use the lull in business to refresh their facilities. Busy areas may be looking tired after significant summer footfall and need repainting, spring cleaning or updating. Teams may need training or support to develop their skills ready for the next large influx of guests for the Christmas period.
The message from the bed and breakfast business survey is that hotel owners cannot be complacent at managing these processes. Jobs such as buying new bed linen from suppliers like Richard Haworth or cleaning up and redecorating rooms should not be left until later in the year. The new trends currently emerging suggest there may still be a significant number of guests arriving in the September and October months.
To effectively plan for managing these changing requirements, the owners can review their pricing structure and strategy based on the volume and profile of bookings they see coming in. It may also be worthwhile offering seasonal packages that accommodate the needs of an adventurous British family.