It is a conundrum that British tourist boards have struggled for decades to solve: how do you persuade holidaymakers to swap sangria in Spain for Blackpool rock?
This year, record numbers of Britons opted for domestic holidays amid pandemic-induced clampdowns on foreign travel. Now, despite this August’s temperamental weather, many appear to be planning a holiday in the UK again next summer.
Accommodation providers report that bookings for next year are already pouring in, with the usual suspects – Cornwall, Devon and Norfolk – particularly popular. There is also a noticeable increase in demand for destinations in Cumbria, the Peak District and Pembrokeshire.
Host Unusual, a website offering more esoteric domestic holiday locations, has registered a strong level of demand for 2022. Properties in popular areas including treehouses and windmill conversions – as well as the more usual accommodation near beaches – have already been booked for next year’s peak summer dates.
The site’s co-founder Alex Wilson said many people have adapted their booking behaviour because they realise they need to reserve earlier to get the most sought-after accommodation, especially in the case of single-unit properties.
With searches for 2022 up 74% compared with this time last year, he suspected that “a year ago the emphasis was trying to find a much-needed last minute post-lockdown break, whereas this year it’s all about getting booked in early to avoid disappointment”.
Steve Jarvis, the co-owner of Independent Cottages, which takes bookings for self-catering holiday cottages across Britain, also suspected the “last-minute mindset” had caught a lot of people out this summer. He put this down partly to 2020 bookings being moved to 2021 because of Covid, but also a fourfold rise in the level of booking inquiries for this summer very early in the year.
Whereas more people left it late to book a summer cottage holiday before the pandemic, booking ahead looks set to continue into summer 2022 as 25% of inquiries are for next year, Jarvis added – their website this month registered twice as many booking inquiries for 2022 compared with 2019.
“Traditionally, August is always a busy month for us with holidaymakers searching for last-minute breaks, but as availability is so scarce, the people who traditionally wait and book last minute have missed out,” he said.
There is also early demand for camping and glamping holidays, which also tend to be booked later. The glamping collective Canopy and Stars said forward bookings for 2022 were up four-fold on the same period in 2019, with many of their most popular spaces already booked up during peak 2022 dates.
Dan Yates, the founder of Pitchup.com, said that while the vast majority of its bookings over the last week were arrivals for the rest of 2021, it had already taken thousands of bookings for UK destinations for 2022, with 90% for bring-your-own accommodation including tents, touring caravans and motorhomes.
Although he expects the last-minute trend to continue to dominate, Yates feels confident of many repeat customers booking for next year after the success of pop-up campsites this summer. “Huge numbers of Brits have taken their first-ever camping, caravan or glamping holiday over the last year and were delighted by what they found,” he said.
The self-catering provider Under the Thatch, which mostly has holiday homes in Wales, also said its “premium properties” were booking up well for peak summer season next year, typically with repeat customers. Its director, Greg Stevenson, said: “People have rediscovered just how wonderful Britain and Ireland really are, and they’ll be back. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard people say they wished they’d come to Wales sooner.”