Bookings for remote UK holiday cottages hit by surge in fuel prices

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Bookings for UK holiday parks and cottages in far-flung locations have been hit by holidaymakers’ concerns over rising fuel prices even though operators have reported a last-minute surge in reservations for the Easter weekend.

Promises of unseasonably warm weather and travel chaos at airports have prompted a rise in late bookings for UK destinations, according to holiday accommodation operators, but locations such as Cornwall and distant parts of Wales have seen less of an uptick as families try to save on fuel.

“Easter is looking very healthy,” said Henrik Kjellberg, chief executive of Awaze, which owns Hoseasons and Cottages.com. Bookings were up 18 per cent on 2019 levels in Awaze’s UK businesses, he added, but average drive distances dropped by 25 miles when fuel prices started to surge earlier this year.

“If you go to a less expensive park in Devon, the petrol cost for a family could be as much as the accommodation depending on where you come from,” Kjellberg said.

Graham Donoghue, chief executive of Sykes Holiday Cottages, said that reservations for properties over the Easter weekend were up 75 per cent on 2019 levels with the number made in the past four weeks up 122 per cent compared to the same period in 2019: “Last-minute bookings [are] more popular this year than ever before.”

But Huw Pendleton, managing director of Celtic Holiday Parks, said his “gut feeling” was that the rising cost of living had affected 20 per cent of forward bookings for his parks in Pembrokeshire.

Costs for transport fuel and lubricants increased 30.7 per cent year on year in March, according to Office for National Statistics data published this week, and were 9.9 per cent higher than in February, a near record monthly rise.

The RAC motoring group said its surveys showed that 20 per cent of drivers planned to take shorter trips this Easter than in previous years and 6 per cent would not take a car trip at all.

Demand in April for holiday homes in Cornwall — about a five-and-a-half-hour drive from central London — was down 10 per cent compared to last year, according to data from the short-term lettings tracker AirDNA, while demand for accommodation in the South Downs National Park, which is about a two-and-a half-hour drive from central London, was up 7 per cent.

UK domestic holiday businesses have been approaching 2022 with trepidation, fearing a big swing back to international trips following the final removal of UK Covid restrictions in March.

Last year many recorded bumper Easter and summer seasons because of the volatile restrictions on international travel, including expensive testing requirements and lengthy forms to fill out.

Kjellberg said that Awaze had been “surprised” at how well bookings were doing this year, despite international holiday businesses such as Tui reporting 98 per cent load factors on flights out of the UK at Easter.

eDreams Odigeo, Europe’s largest online travel agent, said that booking volumes from the UK to Europe at Easter had increased “fourfold compared to last year and [are] up significantly on pre-pandemic levels”.

But Olivier Ponti, vice-president of insights at the data firm Forward Keys, said that recent headlines reporting “significant travel delays” at some UK airports might be behind a “relative slowdown in [flight] tickets issued between April 4 and 7”.

Prices for domestic breaks, which reached record highs last year as demand surged, have held at a similar level to 2021, several park operators said. Some have also put up prices to compensate for rising energy and labour costs.

Pendleton said the cost of running 70 hot tubs across his parks alongside other energy costs such as diesel for lawnmowers and a 12 per cent jump in payroll had forced him to increase prices by about 10 per cent.

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