Category: Property Owners

So what makes a holiday cottage successful in a tough letting climate?

Owner lighting fire

It’s the little touches that make guests feel at home and can increase return business.

Anyone in the industry will tell you that 2013 has been a tougher than normal year for holiday property owners in the UK. However, it is not necessarily due to the lack of demand for self-catering accommodation, which has been boosted by the glorious sunshine of the summer. The pattern in which people are booking has changed considerably over the past two years, bringing with it more challenges for owners.

So how has it changed?

  • More people are booking short breaks and wanting them all year round, not just during the winter months – 44% of recent enquiries through Independent Cottages website were for breaks of 3 nights or less.
  • Bookings are being made at the very last minute – 55% of recent enquiries were for a break or holiday within the forthcoming 6 weeks, compared to only 10% of people that were enquiring more than 6 months in advance.
  • Anecdotally, holiday makers are really shopping around on price. After all, there are so many cottages to choose from, you can’t blame them!

We have many owners on our website who have been fortunate enough to have a very good letting season during the summer of 2013 but it is not by chance. Generally we are finding that the successful owners have adapted to the ‘new’ UK letting patterns and are offering short breaks (some as short as one night); flexible arrival dates; last minute offers; and on top of all that competitive prices.

But it does not stop there. These are often the very same owners who are offering appealing self-catering accommodation, from the coordinated inviting décor that is regularly refreshed, to the welcoming goodies upon arrival – the owners that run their cottages as professional businesses. Some have stepped out of the box, providing a ‘unique’ holiday experience to capture the segment of the market wanting something a little different (yurts, gypsy wagons, who knows what next?). Others put an immense amount of effort and passion into ensuring their properties are presented to the best possible standard; and some go that one step further and provide luxuries like a hot tub. Whether it is at the luxury or basic end of the market, people expect value for money and the owners that are offering that (plus a little more) are reaping the rewards of a successful year.

Yes, you can make money out of holiday letting your second home, but it doesn’t come easy and involves a fair amount of work and commitment to run a successful property, both in terms of time and money. The bar has certainly raised within the last five years, with higher standards of self-catering accommodation being offered across the board. Three years ago only 37% of the cottages listed on our website offered internet access and today it is 67% and increasing all the time. Facilities and services that once differentiated one property from another, are now the accepted norm.

‘Cast-off’ cottages have had their day and whilst holidaymakers are always keen to get the best possible deal, they are not generally willing to compromise on quality. Today’s higher expectations are bringing with them higher general standards of accommodation and whilst this may be tough on owners who have not moved with the times, it is good news for the future of the UK self-catering market.

One thought on “So what makes a holiday cottage successful in a tough letting climate?

  1. Joanne McCudden

    Although only our 2nd year of running, we have had a terrific year, with bookings up significantly on mid and low seasons (both 2012 and 2013 summers were fully booked). I think you’re article is spot on about the changes in the marketplace.

    We have had a much greater number of short stays and late bookings. One lady called us at 15:30 from outside our apartment to ask us if she could check in for the next couple of days!! Paypal and smartphones come in very handy for those occurrences!

    A lot of property owners get worried about short lets and whether that means they have lots of mid week capacity not sold. However, in our experience this hasn’t been the case. Our apartments are 4 star gold rated and so people are keen to stay…they just work around our availability!!! We try to stick to a minimum of a 3 night stay and 1 night is impossible due to our changeover costs making it uneconomical.

    Our apartments are in Whitby and with regards to people increasing standards, we are definitely seeing that. People want the same or better than they have at home!!

    Whitby Holiday Home


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