Back in January 2016, The Guardian reported predictions from the Met Office, who forecast that, apart from a dip in 2017 as the planet-wide cooling effects of El Niño dissipate, for the next five years, up to 2021, we will continue to experience even more warming.
Sussex entrepreneur and experienced non-exec chairman of several travel companies, Steve Endacott, says "Having managed Airtours yield team for many years, I’m more than aware of the impact good UK weather can have on holiday sales in the lates market." More specifically, he talks about patterns of seasonal and even mid-week vs weekend weather having a direct impact on holiday sales, both within the UK and abroad.
Here at Fair Oak Farm we are used to back-to-back bookings throughout the year, so it's not so easy to measure any impact to the volume of bookings or occupancy rates. However, over the last 12 years of operating Fair Oak Farm, we certainly see fluctuations in the volume and type of enquiries depending on the weather and the timing of that weather. In fact, we quite regularly re-plan work to prepare for increases in enquiries after we've had a look at the weather forecast!
Steve suggests "UK Staycationers” might be missing out on the experience of different cultures, sites, languages, food and even swimming in the sea of an overseas holiday. The same article in the Express suggests Brexit, volatile exchange rates and the weakening pound are to blame for increasing staycations. This may be a factor.... there are even articles about the 'Trump affect' on reducing foreign holidays, with rising fuel costs reducing flight capacity and airlines cutting back the number of flights and increasing fares.
However, on the other side of the coin (pun intended), our own research shows us that getting close to 100% of our holiday guests, particularly those staying the weekend, are staying IN ADDITION to at least one other holiday in the same year. In fact the same article in the Express admits that a study conducted by short term loan provider, Wonga, reveals that 93% of Britons are going on at least one staycation break every year and nearly a quarter of people are taking UK breaks with five or more friends.
The affordability of UK staycations, particularly when in groups, means that the Brits are holidaying a lot more than they were. It seems we are getting the best of both worlds, experiencing both foreign cultures and the varying cultures in our own country. In fact, we often witness fully grown adults in amazement as they discover some of the rural culture, food and countryside living experiences on their door step, often quite far removed from the urban life they lead. A short break away, enjoying a taste of countryside living, can refresh the mind as much as a foreign holiday and without the need to go anywhere near an airport.
UK head of marketing at Wonga, James McMaster, comments and recognises that "...by splitting travel costs among a group, people can save money." We are certainly seeing more and more people recognising this and have been accommodating multi-generational family groups, groups of friends and several families getting together for more than a decade now. When clubbing together, individually, they are spending as much as they would on a posh meal out in town or a single night in a hotel... which means they can afford to holiday more often.
Of course, with demand for group staycation venues increasing, particularly those with more management experience offering space and style for the same price per person per night as a budget hotel, it means savvy groups are booking further and further ahead. We are already discussing bookings with some of our regular family visitors for 2020 and 2021.
So, are UK staycations here to stay? Well it certainly looks like it doesn't it?
Words by Ian Ledger, owner of Fair Oak Farm. Photograph by Roy Brockman.