UK holiday warning: Flexibility with cottages more a ‘challenge’ than hotels says expert

Holidays: James Cleverly quizzed on UK tourism

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Holidays have been put on hold for many months due to the Covid pandemic. But with the news travel can start up again in the spring, Britons are keen to start snapping up getaways. Cottages are a popular option as self-catering getaways can return from April 12 provided you’re one household.

However, many people are not sure about how flexible holiday cottages can be amid these times of Covid uncertainty.

Express.co.uk spoke exclusively to Martin Wickham, Sales Director for self-catering holiday cottage company Original Cottages for his travel advice.

“We’ve seen a huge demand in bookings from the April 12 following the Government announcement that individual households can stay in self-catering properties from this date,” he said.

“After months of lockdown and with international travel not yet possible, people are eager to escape and explore what’s on their doorstep.”

However, the level of flexibility with cottages is not always the same as can be expected from hotels.

“We work with our family of individual owners to bring bookings to their properties, making the business model for holiday lets very different to that of hotels,” said Wickham.

“The impact of last-minute changes or cancellations is much more of a logistical and financial challenge than for hotels with multiple rooms and in-house housekeeping teams.”

However, reputable cottage companies such as Original Cottages do offer a level of protection.

“At Original Cottages, we offer a ‘Book with confidence’ promise,” Wickham explained.

“It means that if you’re unable to take your holiday due to government restrictions, you can cancel or transfer your holiday to new dates – so guests can be assured when they book with us.”

Other companies with Book with confidence’ policies in place include Hoseasons, Quality Cottages and Cottages to name just a few.

To avoid the problem of cancelling and rebooking, some holidaymakers might wish to book last minute to avoid committing when there’s still so much uncertainty.

However, while Wickham says it is possible, this approach comes with risks.

“Booking last minute is an option, but guests need to be prepared to be very flexible about the properties, locations and dates available to them,” he said.

What’s more, places are filling up, so if flexible booking policies are in place it might be worth securing something sooner rather than later.

“Demand for staycations are high, especially given the limitations on travel abroad, and a lot of the popular destinations are almost full for the summer season,” detailed Wickham.

That’s not to say you need to abandon the idea of getting away if you haven’t already got something in the diary.

“Whilst the summer season is selling fast we still have availability at some fantastic properties in late spring through to winter,” said Wickham.

“There’s still the chance to book an incredible holiday and if you like the idea of an autumn or winter break, you’re likely to have a greater selection of properties to choose from – but don’t leave it too long as we are already seeing an increase in demand in this season.”

He added: “The key is to be flexible and creative when it comes to where and when to go.”

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