The cottage market recovers and quality improves
The Booking index is up and advance booking for 2014 is better than ever
The booking value index for October 2013 showed a continuing recovery. Much to our delight the October booking index that showed a continuing recovery will be followed, almost certainly, by a 100% plus index for November. Although only half way through the month we have reached last year’s value of bookings taken already. The news is also good for advance bookings for 2014 where we are within 5% of the value of all advance bookings taken at the end of 2012 with still a month and a half of 2013 to go.
The 2013 index of value of bookings taken for short notice or in months to come:
Nov 100.00 + (Half the month through and the target has been met)
An excellent year would see all over 100%. But the recent trend is very encouraging. We are aware that not everyone will see this apparent recovery as clearly as we do and we do not want to discourage owners who are still feeling the aftermath of that appalling and long spate of ‘the weather from hell’ for holiday let owners.
Out taking photos again
Meanwhile, after a drought of two and a half months, new cottages are coming on board. I went out a couple of days ago to one nestling in the hills on the English border of Wales. Much to my delight the owners had transformed it from a tired chintzy mid to late 1980s cottage mish -mash into an uncluttered and much more attractive holiday let. It can be quite delicate when advising new owners and to avoid the feeling that you might be bossing them around whilst doing your best to help them get as much net income from their cottages as possible. At times the feeling is that they do not really believe you. One of the greatest of pleasures is when changes are made and result pleases owners even before bookings have been taken.
The atmosphere relaxes and, strange to say, there can be an almost palpable sense of working as a team. I say, ‘strange’, because booking agents are not the most loved of species and have to go the extra mile to add value and care. Not all of them do this by any means so creating an extra hurdle for us to leap over. We never forget that the main investment and all the physical work is done by owners but the emotional turmoil that can arise when a concern or upset comes our way is almost as great for us as it is for owners. We live or die by service.
Anyway, the visit started off with bright late autumn sunshine and I set about taking photographs. The temptation is to only include the best pictures. We did this a few years ago when starting out and the result was not good. In those days we had to accept that we could not pick and choose cottages, so some of the early ones would never have made the grade today. With one I had managed to take some better than usual photographs not only of the inside but also of the surrounding area. After heavy rain two consecutive sets of guests left a day early. Although neither had complained, the writing was on the wall and we parted the ways with the owners shortly afterwards. You cannot afford to tolerate moderate of poor quality cottages and, even more so, this also applies to the management of holiday lets. A high quality but poorly managed holiday cottage can be as more of a disaster than a poor quality well managed cottage. Any number of Stars will not reveal this.
Which brings me back to the owners who modernized and kicked out the chintz . On the first visit the cottage looked appalling complete with clutter, very tired kitchen and a large helping of Landlords / pub / lodgers carpet. These things are what some of the not so good owners like to call ‘practical’. This means that they do not show stains or dirt.. in other words you can get away with letting them get a bit dirty and guests will not notice. Almost without exception when entering places with such ‘sensible’ carpets you can smell the ‘practicality’. Ugh. Sure enough, when I was first showed around the stench of practicality smacked me in the face.
As the new owners were determined to sort things out, and as they had flatteringly, listened to my suggestions, it was a real pleasure to return to see how much progress had been made. An old business colleague had an even stronger dislike for these practical carpets and at times described them as an offence against common humanity. I would not do so far, but they are a pretty certain sign of disrespect.
We arr looking forward to launching this new cottage shortly. They still have to do a few bits and pieces but it is largely sorted out and for a surprisingly small sum have dragged it into the 21st century and turned what was a depressing worn out slightly sad holiday cottage into something I would rather like to stay in myself. I suppose, as we are a very small business, the decision of whether cottages make the grade comes down quite a bit to such a simple judgement.
So, the general news on the booking front is the most positive since the rain started falling in early 2012. And for us the figures are changing colour from red back to black. Thank goodness. This change is almost totally generated by better weather although the artificial ‘growth’ created by the UK government may have helped on the confidence front which might also have helped a bit. The waiting cottage list now includes the one above, 2 five star sleep twos a little further into Wales, one sleep 6 in central Ludlow (taking photos this coming Wednesday) two others and four possibles. This is a healthy build up for 2014.
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