Tourist accommodation providers witness a surge in bookings for the summer season

Three tourist accommodation owners on the East Yorkshire coast have said they are seeing a surge in bookings for the summer season, with tourists getting younger and staying for longer.

Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 6:05 am
East Riding Council’s Economy Portfolio Holder Cllr Jane Evison told ward members that tourism businesses were reporting an “extremely positive” picture on bookings.
East Riding Council’s Economy Portfolio Holder Cllr Jane Evison told ward members that tourism businesses were reporting an “extremely positive” picture on bookings.

The owners of establishments in Withernsea, Bridlington and Hornsea said there were now little to no vacancies left until September.

But they added that despite the bumper season their businesses continued to reel from coronavirus losses and they remained unsure how long the staycation boom would last.

It comes as East Riding Council’s Economy Portfolio Holder Cllr Jane Evison told ward members that tourism businesses were reporting an “extremely positive” picture on bookings.

But she added there would be challenges as tourists flock to the coast, providing a boon to hospitality but potentially unnerving locals with more traffic and crowds while coronavirus lingers.

‘Demand is up but supply isn’t there’

Shaun Kemp, manager of the Willows Holiday Park in Withernsea, said his establishment only had a handful of days available to book until September.

But he added the caravan selling side of his business continue to struggle due to bottlenecks in factories, hampering efforts to claw back pandemic losses.

The manager said: “We’re very busy with bookings at the moment.

“It’s similar to the situation we were in last July when we reopened then, normally we get most of our bookings for weekends but we’re even busy mid-week now.

“We also sell caravans, including to other local parts, but the trouble is there’s a shortage at the moment because of rising demand.

“But it’s also because the factories have been building less with the social distancing measures they’ve got to do and there’s a shortage of materials.

“It’s a double pronged issue, the demand’s up but the supply isn’t there to meet it.

“We’ve got a few locals booked and visitors coming from West and South Yorkshire, that’s pretty normal for us but the amount of them isn’t.

“We’re also getting a few from Derbyshire that we don’t normally get.

“We’ve had to put extra pitches in to try and cope with the demand, but it isn’t enough and it depends if demand continues going up year on year.

“People aren’t going abroad as much with the way things have gone with coronavirus.

“Last year demand was up about 80 per cent compared to the year before and that was from only about four months’ worth of trading.

“But even with the rise in demand business in the summer won’t make up for the losses during the pandemic.

“It will only help to offset them a bit, if it wasn’t for the caravan situation we’d more than make up for it.

“We haven’t put our prices up because we want to be fair and we’re hoping for repeat bookings in future years.

“I don’t think Withernsea attracts the numbers you get further up the coast, traffic from tourists isn’t really an issue here.”

‘No chance’ for summer family rooms

Pauline Harris, owner of the Schofield Guest House and also on the Bridlington Tourism Association’s committee, said the profile of her guests were changing, with more bookings from those aged from 30 to 50.

She added elderly guests who would typically make up most weekend bookings were fewer but an overall surge meant she had had to take on more staff.

Ms Harris said: “We’ve had an increase in bookings and we’re seeing more direct ones coming straight to us rather than from agents.

“There’s more people coming and they’re staying for longer, I’ve had to take on more staff.

“Normally we’d have people staying for one or two nights at the weekend as a sort of in between holiday before they go abroad.

“That’s unusual for us, typically we’d be about half full in the week and full at the weekend.

“And with the government’s announcement that the lockdown lifting was delayed more people seem to be cancelling their abroad holidays and are staying more local.

“Now they’re staying for five or six and it’s their main holiday, that’s increased our turnover and the cost of cleaning the rooms is lower and with more direct bookings we’re not having to pay as much to agents.

“The biggest chunk of people missing are the elderly, they normally make up most of the weekend bookings.

“We’re seeing more couples in their 30s, 40s and 50s come now, we’re getting more of the younger ones than we had before.

“If someone was to try and book a family room with me for the summer right now they’d have no chance, there’s one night left in August then none until September.

“I haven’t put my prices up, I’ve left them as normal, but I’ve heard some hotels particularly in Scarborough are charging extortionate rates to stay.

“I’ve had some guests who’ve told me they were looking at having to pay £250 a night in some places, they’re cashing in on the shortage of accommodation.

“I personally think it was the second lockdown that hit us hardest.

“When different parts of the country were in different tiers we had cancellations because people couldn’t travel, I lost bookings repeatedly in October.

“And we weren’t getting government grants because the East Riding was in a lower tier at the time.

“I’m not sure yet how we’ll end up financially this year, I think we’ll break even because of the higher demand.

“I’m finding more guests expect the coronavirus rules to be followed and for everything to be in place, the council’s been doing spot checks on us too.

“People seem more sensitive and socially aware of what’s expected of them now, that goes for Bridlington residents and the pubs, cafes and shops too.”

‘What’s going to happen next year?’

Georgina Wilson, owner of Hornsea’s Hayloft guest house, said her guests were now from as far away as Cambridgeshire and London compared to mostly local bookings before the pandemic.

But she added she did not want to bank on the recent rise in bookings, fearing demand could cool off once holidays abroad become a more viable option for tourists.

Mrs Wilson said: “We were able to open back in April when the restrictions first eased.

“We’re almost fully booked, we have been from the beginning of May and still are until September, we only have one room.

“For some weekends like this one I’d sold already sold the room a few weeks ago.

“Two people rang yesterday trying to get something and another rang today, it’s constant.

“We didn’t used to get as many bookings in the week but most weeks we have them now.

“From what I’m hearing from other places in Hornsea most are fully booked at the weekend.

“I’ve been getting a lot of walkers and cyclists, they tend to be on a tour and they’ll stay here for a night or two before going on to somewhere else.

“I’d say about half the guests are from West Yorkshire, they tend to have friends or family who own a caravan here so they stay with us while they’re visiting them.

“But we’ve also had people come from Cambridgeshire, London, the Midlands, all sorts.

“Normally we’d be getting people within an hour or two’s drive away.

“Most of our guests tend to be couples, we get the odd single person too, that hasn’t really changed for us.

“They can be all ages, we don’t take families but most of the guests are about 40 upwards.

“We’ve kept our prices the same but we’ve removed a discount, normally we sell the room through direct bookings or through online travel agents.

“The room itself is off from our main house so there’s no cross over for guests, normally I’d show them to the room but now they have to go up on their own which seems a bit impersonal.

“I left my previous job in the Autumn to take this on, this is my main work now.

“Unfortunately I left just around the time the second lockdown came in, from June to September before that we really noticed how busy it was.

“But what’s going to happen next year when foreign holidays become more accessible again?

“We need to keep that in the back of our minds, this might not carry on.

“Most of the locals are pleased the tourists are back, they rely on the trade to keep them going.

“We’ve lived here five years and most people who move here know it’s a holiday destination so they expect it to be busy in summer.

“It does bring extra traffic but you get used to it, we know about 10 or so of the main roads will be busy in summer but that’s just the way it is.”