A record-breaking 14.88m domestic trips were taken in England the first five months of 2016, the highest figures since 2011 and up 1% on the same period last year, according to Visit England.
Uncertainty in the run-up to the EU referendum in June and a weakened pound post-Brexit have contributed to the growing numbers choosing to stay in the UK, according to the tourism agency. Fears around terrorism are also playing a part. A recent BDRC Continental poll of 1,009 people saw 77% cite ‘safety’ as a factor when planning a holiday. The stats are being backed up on the ground.
David Robertson, owner of Ye Olde Bulls Head Inn, in Beaumaris, Anglesey, north Wales, has noticed “a significant” uplift in the number of people staying in his pub, which he believes is due to the increase in UK residents choosing to take breaks in Britain.
'Staycations' in Numbers
- 14.88m: number of domestic trips taken in England during the first five months of 2016.
- 77%: proportion of holiday makers who cite 'safety' as a consideration when planning a vacation.
- 25%: the rise in accommodation income this year, credited to UK residents choosing to take breaks in Britain.
“Our accommodation income has risen by 25% this year,” he says. But just how easy is it for pubs to tap into this market, especially if they don’t offer accommodation?
According to Candace Jury, retail marketing manager for St Austell Brewery, which owns 179 pubs, inns and hotels across Cornwall, Devon and Somerset, there are ways and means.
Most pubs, regardless of size, should be able to take advantage, especially if they’re located close to popular tourist areas. However, the key, she insists, is that they have the “ability and facilities” to make the most of potential visitors.
Exploit underutilised land
The Blue Anchor in Fraddon is a prime example. Situated in Cornwall – a location voted the best UK holiday destination in the 2015 British Travel Awards – the pub has generated extra income by making use of adjoining land.
Once redundant space now accommodates overnight camper vans and motor homes.
The pub advertises the service for free via Brit Stops, an organisation that compiles profiles of businesses offering ‘pit stops’ around Britain. “All they do is call in advance to check there is a space available. It’s like having customers on your doorstep. Five or six families a night all coming in to eat makes a huge difference to our revenue for no extra outlay,” licensee Steve Brown explains.
The Three Horseshoes, in Goulceby, Lincolnshire, caught on to a similar concept four years ago when it established glamping accommodation in the form of Lotus Belle Tents and a retro caravan for holidaymakers on neighbouring land.
Keen to utilise the pub’s existing catering facilities, owner Lee Peet wanted to create a destination for glamping, weddings and events.
“In today’s economic climate, additional revenue streams are all important and glamping offers a unique income source for pubs that are looking to maximise the potential of their property,” says Peter Rusbridge, director of Swan Events, which organises The Glamping Show.
“By diversifying in this way, Lee has brought additional customers to the pub and with good margins. The glamping and campsite contribute a significant income.”
Create more bedrooms
Extending or taking over neighbouring buildings to create or add to existing accommodation may also be an option.
This is exactly what the Rashleigh Arms, run by current BII Licensees of the Year Rob and Lucy Brewer, did earlier this year, increasing its room numbers from eight to 18 after acquiring a nearby guest house in Charlestown, south Cornwall.
“We have increased our room stock by 60% in just over 12 months and have been running over peak season (April to September) at nearly 90% occupancy,” says Rob.
“In a total year, it’s around 73% occupancy. Not only do we generate accommodation revenue but each night’s room is a potential food and beverage customer. At check in, all guests are asked if they would like a table in the restaurant. Most do.”
Generate press exposure
One of the real secrets of the pub’s success is its central Cornwall location, making it an ideal jump-off point for tourists looking to visit the Eden Project or hot spots such as Padstow, Plymouth, Penzance and Bude, which are all less than an hour away. And being only three miles away from St Austell brewery, the pub also offers dedicated ‘brew breaks’.
Recently, Charlestown village and port has been used as a location in the BBC drama Poldark, which has resulted in a surge of visitors.
“We have had a lot of travel journalists also stay. We pick up the bill but we have had massive exposure in the national Sunday press about coming to Cornwall for the ‘Poldark Experience’.
“We have featured in The Telegraph, Mirror, Daily Star and many more. Accommodation revenue this year is up by nearly 41% like-for-like.”
Targeting the travel press is an approach Candida Leaver and her husband Peter Starling have recently adopted.
During the past six years, the pair have transformed the Bower Inn in Bridgwater from a run-down and empty country pub into a successful site with 16 luxury bedrooms.
The pub is located within the heart of The Quantocks, a designated area of outstanding natural beauty in Somerset.
“At the end of last year, we took on a PR agency to promote the business and attract guests from further afield because we wanted to embrace the staycation market,” Starling explains.
The Swan, in Bampton, Devon, has won numerous awards for its food offer. Paul Berry, who runs the pub with his wife, Donna, maintains ‘good working relationships’ with the editors of Devon Life and Exmoor Magazine and various West Country food titles including The Food Magazine, Crumbs and The Trencherman’s Guide to publicise the pub.
Berry also stresses the importance of supporting other local businesses.
The Bower Inn is also supporting Visit Somerset’s ‘Secret Somerset’ campaign, which, among other things, promotes hidden natural and geographical areas of interest, discovered by local residents and regular visitors. “We’ve been using the #SecretSomerset tag on social media.
“We’ve tried to support as much as possible the work of the RSPB and its reserves near us, as we get lots of bird watchers and walkers as guests. We’ve also promoted the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust venture at Steart, which is very popular too. We’re members of the local chamber of trade and commerce with a view to help put Bridgwater on the map as a place to visit,” Starling explains.
Such engagement not only promotes the local area, but increases the pub’s visibility, which in turn helps to put it on the radar of staycationers. The inn is also devoting more time to social media. “As a result of our more consistent and persistent approach, our social media following grew by 20% in six months,” Starling adds.
“We have also launched two Twitter campaigns to help boost The Quantocks, asking people to share pictures and positive thoughts using #QuiteQu antocks and #BigUpBridgwater. It is early days but we’re hoping to develop an online community sharing wonderful images and stories about their time here.”
Elsewhere, Castle Cottage in Harlech, north Wales, has established relationships with major attractions and sporting venues. Owner Glyn Roberts says golfers who stay at his pub, which is promoted on Visit Wales, Facebook and Welsh Rarebits – a collection of premium boutique hotels, spas and pubs across Wales – are entitled to a 10% discount on green fees at the internationally renowned Royal St David’s Golf Club.
Raise your profile
Additionally, the Roebuck has recently begun working with premium fragrance brand Jo Malone where its bar managers go to selected launch nights to create cocktails that match the new fragrances, which helps to reinforce the pub’s reputation as a luxurious destination.
Co-manager Charlie Mair says: “It’s great to work alongside other brands, it offers something different for us and gives us the opportunity to showcase in front of a new audience.”
Business and leisure travellers are increasingly looking to stay in pub accommodation. According to Paul Nunny, founder of stayinapub.co.uk, a website that showcases pubs with rooms, the platform receives more than 25,000 website visitors per month, which has doubled since the start of the year.
Pubs are featured on the website for £100 plus VAT. “Fully listed pubs over the past 12 months have received, on average, 2,500 views with 17% clicking through to book,” Nunny says, before adding that pub accommodation now provides the opportunity for publicans to enjoy another income stream. “Consumers staying in pubs will spend 50% of the cost of the accommodation or more on food and drink at the pub.
“The opportunity is to attract consumers from both hotels and B&Bs. People who use both, normally go out to eat in a pub. They can now stay and eat under the same roof with no drink-drive worries.”
With staycation figures on the up, there’s never been a better time for publi-cans to tap into this lucrative market.