With so much uncertainty around when we might be able to start to enjoy holidays once again, the tourism sector is facing a difficult summer. We do not yet know whether or not it will be possible to have a break away in the traditional months of July or August. Some tourism experts are predicting a later holiday season in 2020. Could we see more visitors coming down to the South West over the October half term, for example, or booking a stay for Christmas and New Year?
The challenges facing the tourism sector
Since some of the Covid-19 restrictions started to be scaled back, there has been much talk about the impact on all types of businesses. The difficulties of ensuring social distancing, concerns about a loss of customers, and a reluctance (on health grounds) of staff to return to work, all point to a difficult time ahead.
This could be particularly challenging for those businesses engaged in tourism and leisure. The main season usually runs from Easter to October and the key time is those six weeks of the school summer holiday. Any damage to trading activity over a very narrow period can have a huge impact on profit – and the ability to earn enough money to tide the business over during the winter months. I wrote more about these challenges in my recent blog.
The last few years have shown how difficult a wet August can be for tourism businesses. A restricted or non-existent season in 2020 could be an unmitigated disaster for the entire sector.
However, all may not be as bad as current restrictions might suggest. There have now been a number of surveys indicating that customers still want to holiday in the South West – just later in the year.
Which businesses could benefit from a late season?
So, if tourists visit during the autumn or winter, rather than summer months, how will this affect the sector in the South West?
Unfortunately, it will not help every business but those able to adapt to appeal to a different customer base could be big winners – especially as later travellers may be older and with greater disposable income.
The areas which may benefit most include:
• Self-catering accommodation, which naturally lends itself to social distancing
• High end accommodation
• Short breaks (weekends and midweek rather than a week or fortnight), which are generally more popular outside of the main summer season
• Activity based offerings
• Anything perceived as Covid secure
The key will be to find some flexibility in your business model. The winners will be those who can:
• Identify the trends and adapt to fit
• Maintain and demonstrate the highest standards of Covid precautions
• And, most importantly, make sure that they communicate their offering to as many potential customers as possible
Many of our tourism clients are now focusing on how they could adapt their business to attract customers during the autumn and winter.
A late season may not be ideal but it does not have to be a disaster. And it is certainly better than no season at all.
By Stuart Carrington, Partner