Dan Yates, Founder of Pitchup.com, comments in advance of Boris’ announcement on the pending announcements about travel restrictions on the domestic travel industry.
“This year mass confusion followed changing statements issued by the government, as the Covid situation has required a number of pivots – so holiday businesses will be hoping Monday’s statement gives some long-term clarity to British holidaymakers. As a travel business owner it was interesting to see whether Hancock’s or Shapps’ views would resonate more with the British public – and it appears Brits are voting with their feet – we’re certainly seeing the “Hancock Effect” has prevailed. It’s likely that planning for holidays is giving many much-needed hope during this lockdown, which seems much harder than the first through these stark winter months. The stats show that Brits remain stoic and continue to book UK holidays as vaccination rates build confidence.”
Outdoor holidays exploded in popularity last year, with one booked up to every three seconds on Pitchup.com and 6,500 bookings in a single day (double our previous record). In contrast, the large hotel/apartment online travel agents reported annual declines of around 50%. It looks like this summer will again be domestic and particularly outdoor holidays, with annual growth of more than 100% this week so far.
Whilst many cottage companies may have sold out, many people seem to forget that outdoor accommodation accounts for 65% of UK non-serviced bed spaces – of which there are still plenty. A quick search on our site shows there are currently 791 locations available in England for the week of 31st July to 7 August.”
Brits certainly shouldn’t give up hope for that all important summer holiday. Thanks to confirmation in November that permitted development for temporary pop-up sites is now in place for up to 56 days in 2021. We’re attracting hundreds of new listings, increasing customer choice and capacity – new sign-ups are already 25% up on this point last year. Farmers and other landowners are diversifying, prompted by a relaxation of ‘permitted development’ rules. The sites not only offer city dwellers an entirely new type of holiday – up close and personal with farm animals, for example – but also a boost to local economies from food, drink and activities.
The vaccination rollout is definitely prompting increased confidence – our annual growth is clearly recovering as more and more people receive their first dose. Almost 50,000 people are already booked to holiday through Pitchup.com in 2021, with a significant uplift in the past 7 days following the doubling in vaccinations and the impending statement – yesterday alone was up 72%.
The platform’s own bookings for 2021 show that the south west remains popular as ever with Devon accounting for 8.6% of current UK bookings in 2021, Cornwall at 9.3% and strong bookings for Cumbria (4.6%) and the Cotswolds (2.2%). That still leaves hundreds of thousands of bed nights at sites in those areas and beyond, available to be booked.
In light of the UK leading the way in vaccinations, bookings for this year are likely to exceed those from 2020, where there was still an element of Covid fear even when it came to booking domestically.
Outdoor accommodation certainly appears to have outperformed other categories during the pandemic. While businesses focused on built accommodation including Airbnb, Booking.com and Expedia reported significant annual downturns in 2020 (-41%, -58% and -54% respectively), Pitchup.com saw just 3% lower volume globally, and double digit increases for its UK business.
In terms of seasonality, spring and summer are currently equally popular. Since 4th January, April, May, July and August have been the most popular arrival months, with only a 1% difference between April and August. People seem to be itching to get away as soon as the rules allow and, with many sites offering flexible amendments, feel confident enough to book ahead.
Having rediscovered what’s on their doorstep last year, nearly all are staying close to home. Previous figures suggested less than a third of Brits would opt for a UK holiday given the choice, but 95% of our bookings last year were domestic, with Google searches for “glamping near me” in 2020 ranking 133% higher at their peak compared to 2019.
Glamping continues to grow, though camping and caravanning still dwarfs glamping overall, with around 10x more searches on Google. Motorhomes and campervans rentals have exploded, as have sales of camping kit. We’re confident that the boom in outdoor holidays is set to continue.”