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Our Overview of the South West Tourism Sector During Q1 of 2023

Our Overview of the South West Tourism Sector During Q1 of 2023

Landscape shot of the pretty fishing village of Port Isaac

Where does time go? We’re almost at the end of the first quarter of the year and that means we’ve now got more than enough data to draw some early conclusions on how this year is shaping up for businesses in the South West Tourism Industry. 

Because we work with more than 100 accommodation and hospitality providers in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, and Dorset, as well as some of the major destinations, we’re fortunate to have a front row seat to overall trends in the industry in this part of the world is seeing. 

Here’s what we’ve noticed….

A drop in early traffic levels during the year

Many sites within the South West Tourism Industry have seen year-on-year traffic for Q1 drop by somewhere between 5 – 25%.

There are two core reasons for this:

  • January of last year was at the back end of the post-Covid traffic surge of 2021 (brought about by a lack of international travel and people seeking their first opportunity to get out after lockdowns). This means that figures were artificially higher last year, and you would expect to have some drop off this year.
  • However, there has been a noticeable drop in demand since last year, which has been exacerbated by people booking closer and closer to the date of their arrival. This means, as an example, that traffic that would commonly be booking for the summer may currently be booking for Easter. As a result of that summer booking traffic levels (which are often higher) are being pushed to later in the year.

In terms of good news, the majority of the 5 – 25% drop is usually found in January, with February and March traffic levels rallying against and sometimes above last year’s numbers.

My overall feeling is a lot more positive now than it was at the start of the year.

Uncertainty leads to a delay in decision making and bookings 

We’ve mentioned that people are booking closer and closer to the time of arrival, but why are they doing that? As humans we like certainty, and many people need it when planning. Over recent months we’ve faced what seemed like a long winter, economic difficulties, a cost of living crisis, a war in Europe….the list goes on and on….

All those factors bring uncertainty and that in turn delays decision making. For you, it means their booking comes into your booking engine closer to when they’ll be joining you. That in turn brings you uncertainty, as you look at your calendar and feel that it’s not as full as it usually would be by now 

My view on this is that bookings will come, but they will come later; I’ve every expectation that if your marketing is right, booking revenue this year shouldn’t be dropping by any large amount.

The importance of repeat trade

There’s one thing that trumps the trend above (of people booking later) and that is the beauty of repeat guests; they book earlier, they come more often and they’ll also tell people about you too! 

There’s never been a more important time to be on your game when it comes to getting people back to your property than now; if you’re not doing it then you’re going to be paying more for new guests (see my next point) and you’re going to have the stress of them booking later. 

Levels of supply are still high 

Another factor affecting the market is the level of supply. During the Covid period, and just after, the number of cottages on the market through platforms such as Airbnb soared. That wasn’t a problem when supply was also soaring and there was a limited amount of international travel. 

However, there has been a drop in demand and because supply is still high in South West Tourism, it means that demand is spread across a wider range of options. Just like spreading jam on a loaf of toast rather than a slice, it means that booking coverage is being stretched and effective marketing to a defined audience is becoming more important. If you don’t market, you’re likely to find yourself often being the ones with the gap.

My summary: 
  • Traffic to sites was down in January but has begun to rally.
  • Levels of supply are still very high, and demand has dropped slightly.
  • People are generally booking later.
  • A focus on repeat trade can insulate cottage owners from market fluctuations.

if you want to know more about how MiHi Digital can help your business grow, then get in touch with the team!

Call us on 01566 232323 or email

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