First signs for 2014 holiday cottages and lets
2013 was a tough year at Holiday Lets for Sale and Country Holiday Lets. Aside from the delayed impact of the bad weather on demand, we had a major systems failure coupled with a failure of the back up. Fortunately all is well now and we weathered a very bad year remarkably well. But if you have every sighed a huge sigh of relief ‘knowing’ your backup is working, think again.
I.T. causes bother.
The system collapsed in late March 2013. All key files became inaccessible on the server due to what the IT people said was a file navigation problem. They were and could still be there in the redundant backup box still on the shelf beside my desk. But nothing on earth could retrieve them. But I was not to know this. So, the server went down and the files on the hard drive were inaccessible.
After cleaning up the hard drive and checking all installed programs, with some pride and certainty, I attached the backup external hard drive. Yes, all the files were there. At this point, experience taught me to re-establish the key files first. So I downloaded from the backup to the server the financial files; these included all the Sage Accounts records, all the invoices and all the operating booking records. Just as this was finished, the general folder which contained everything else simply disappeared from the screen as I was looking at it. My heart sank to my boots. Whatever we tried, nothing worked.
Frantic, I asked professional advice from a data recovery business. They told me that by a desperate and highly unlikely co-incidence the back-up hard drive had developed a mechanical fault at the very moment that it was most needed. However, it was phenomenally lucky that the financial and booking files were recovered. It later turned out that some of these had not quite all been restored which did cause come problems… but 98% were intact.
A computer chum said that they always took double backups on different devices because this sort of thing is far from unknown. I.T. can be immensely frustrating and it was only sheer good luck, with bad luck waiting to strike, that did not create several weeks of work to restore lost data and systems.
Signs and developments
The winter weather has hit bookings as can be expected but, hopefully, the deluges will cease shortly and we will not get a repeat of 16 months of rain lingering through 2012 and well into 2013. In the flat market, signs are that potential guests are searching and choosing from a growing choice due to good supply. One major factor is the growing habit of asking owners to take provisional bookings so they can hedge their bets, transfer the risk of making a less than perfect holiday purchase, until the time a decision has to be made.
It appears some guests stack up three or more cottages all on provisional bookings so that they can make the best choice. This is highly logical buying if owners go along with the arrangement. Owners are increasingly finding the proportion of provisional bookings coming to fruition is reducing. In some more popular destinations owners have already radically cut back on taking provisional bookings with some even including e-mail signatures something like: ‘bookings are only secured on receipt of a deposit’.
The fear many owners have is that if they refuse to take a provisional booking they may lose the booking. This is unlikely because if they are still available, come the time and nothing more attractive has been found, it is unlikely a potential guest will go elsewhere solely on the basis of upset for being refused a provisional booking without consideration on their part.
Advance market indications
As usual, advance bookings are mainly for the larger cottages with occupy 4 and less having to wait until much closer the time before bookings are made. This is largely due to the need to plan further in advance for families or larger groups. The good news is that overall advance bookings 2013 for 2014 were better than for 2011 for 2012. As for 2012 for 2013, they were up by over 170%.
Holiday Lets for Sale have increased in numbers across the market and prices have not risen in line with what some think are bubble market prices for normal residential properties. 2014 is going to be a telling year. It has started off promisingly, but the old certainties have gone. Flexibility and decisiveness will be even more important than ever.