By Laura Gelder – January 2020 – 6 minute read
Whether it’s a short-term stop-gap strategy or another string to your travel business bow, learning how to sell a wider range of UK holidays is a smart move for 2021.
Home from home
It looks like a shark’s fin but also a bit like the sorting hat from Harry Potter. It’s supposed to look like a church but because it’s high tide most of the black rock is submerged.
I’m spying Pembrokeshire’s iconic Church Rock from a supine position on Broadhaven South beach, a sweep of golden sand so vast that there’s no need to worry about social distancing. The water is crystal clear, the sky is blue and the sun is warm, with a fresh breeze ruffling the pages of my book.
In moments like this you do wonder why anyone would go to the hassle of travelling to the Caribbean. I am in Wales, though, and the weather doesn’t stay this balmy the whole week. But a staycation isn’t about lying on a beach, it’s a time for exploring.
My week is spent poking around bookshops and sampling local beers and ice creams in towns like Tenby and St David’s – the smallest city in the UK. I explore castles, gardens and a vineyard, and walk sections of the rugged Wales Coast Path, along winding cliff-top paths through russet ferns, yellow heather and tufts of sea pinks and past pebbly coves where grey seals lollop.
It’s familiar and easy but also surprisingly unfamilar and refreshing. A beachside bacon roll comes with seaweed and in my local pub I enjoy fish and chips while the locals discuss the football in Welsh.
What to sell
Many Brits who wouldn’t usually chose to holiday in the UK did just that this summer and had their eyes opened to their own island’s beauty and diversity.
Domestic holidays might not be your bread and butter but times are a-changing and although a vaccine may prove a game-changer for the beleaguered travel industry, and get bums back on plane seats, selling UK holidays look set to remain a nice earner.
“For many agents, the challenge is that customers may not think of a staycation as an option, or think of using an agent to book one,” says Ben Ittensohn, Head of Sales at Explore. “Promoting domestic trips through their marketing channels is crucial and highlighting why now, more than ever, consumers need agents’ expertise.”
Sheena Whittle, Head of The Personal Travel Agents at Co-operative Travel, says that customers perceive a UK break as being easy to book themselves. “A good travel agent will save their customers time and money because they know where to search,” she says. “They should ensure they are telling their customers this.”
It’s a good time to gain new clients, says Mark Allvey, co-founder and CEO of Untold Story Travel. “Many travellers who had the confidence to ‘go it alone’ when travelling domestically no longer do,” he says.
It’s also time to rethink the audience for domestic breaks because there are signs this has got a lot wider since the pandemic. Heather McKinlay, founder of McKinlay Kidd, a UK specialist operator which is partnering with Kuoni, has noted enquiries now coming from a younger demographic.
And Lee Hamilton, General Sales Manager at Prestige Holidays, saw unprecedented demand this summer from small family groups wanting to stay in their bubble, self-cater and self-drive. He thinks niche markets, such as hobby groups like painters or cyclists, are a potential gold mine for agents. “Once onside they will book every year. Tap into the University of the Third Age - a UK-wide network which connects people with hobbies of all kinds in across the country.”
Ben Thorburn, Head of Marketing at Wilderness Scotland, says: “Open travellers’ eyes to the potential for active and nature-based experiences blended with millennia-old history and culture. Couple that with an ever-increasing reputation for exceptional food and drink and the experience is as enriching as any tour abroad.”
McKinlay observes that the mainstream media has been full of negative coverage for domestic tourism, with phrases like ‘settle for a staycation’. She thinks marketing should be positive and point out the diversity of the UK: “We’ll travel afar to somewhere like Petra but there’s architecture that’s older than the pyramids in the north of Scotland. There are places in the UK that represent a real escape from normal life, like Shetland, which has a culture more like Scandinavia.”
Prestige Holidays’ Hamilton thinks images are key to getting across the ‘wow factor’ of a UK holiday. “There are some stunning photos you can use to market domestic holidays,” he says. “The Isles of Scilly have beaches that could be in the Indian Ocean.”
Hamilton doesn’t think price is the thing that will sell the destination, but knowledge and expertise. “A lot of people who live in this country don’t know what’s out there so offer pre-packaged ideas.”
Bonny Scottish roadtrips: Many operators reported accommodation as ‘sold out’ on Scotland’s North Coast 500, a 516-mile, self-drive route of dramatic coast including John O’ Groats.
Wild Welsh beaches: If clients have ‘done’ Devon and Cornwall, send them to Wales for more stunning beaches but less competition for accommodation. Top spots include the Gower Penninsula – the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956 – and Pembrokeshire.
Smaller cities: UKc ity breaks don’t have to be in London. Consider the charms and countryside links of cities like York or Bath or smaller towns like Bakewell in the Peak District or Rye in East Sussex, which is near beaches and vineyards.
Tour operator: Explore launched its new brochure for 2021 with an expanded range of UK tours in response to increasing demand from agents. New UK trips include Walk the Lake District , Cycle Hadrian’s Wall and a Snowdonia Walking Short Break.
Osprey Holidays is working with Visit Scotland to increase its portfolio of hotels, itineraries and attractions.
Experience-focused tour operator Untold Story Travel has a new series of staycations and European itineraries as part of its Adventures on Your Doorstep range.
Arena Rail Holidays’ latest brochure offers UK train journeys for winter 2020/2021.
Audley Travel introduced new trips to Scotland and Ireland this summer.
Intrepid Retreats is a new tour range from the operator which lets small groups spend their holiday in one location, immersing themselves in the local community and supporting it. Many are UK based.
Destinations: VisitGuernsey is to launch ‘The Islands of Guernsey Way’ next spring – a new signposted coastal walking trail across the islands of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm and Lihou.
Where to book it?
In the Yorkshire Dales, these are part of the brand’s Autograph Collection. Complete with hot tub and woodburner, a seven-night stay is priced from £935