Home » Hot tubs and axe-throwing: How British holiday lets are raising their game to survive

Hot tubs and axe-throwing: How British holiday lets are raising their game to survive

“All the activities make for a wonderful Herefordian experience. We can book different workshops for everybody – all ages, on and offsite,” she says.

Price wars

Owners and agents are also embracing creative discounting to get more guests through their doors. It means there are bargains to be had – especially in regions where demand is falling (AirDNA lists London and Surrey among the places where bookings are down). 

“We used to have three-night weekends and four-night weeks,” says Aylmer. “But we’re now doing two-night stays in our smaller properties. People don’t necessarily want to have Monday off work, so they might now do Friday and Saturday, and we might offer a late check-out on Sunday for them.

“Then, in the large properties, if there’s just a couple of months before the date of the visit, we’ve been offering under-occupancy rates. Guests might take two bedrooms and we leave the other ones unmade: you get all the luxury and facilities of the big houses and the place all to yourself; we get less laundry and cleaning charges and less wear and tear.”

If all the bells, whistles and discounts still don’t bring in guests, or during shoulder season when things can get really quiet, owners are finding ways to diversify. You can get married at Tregulland & Co’s largest property, while Westbrook Court is launching group retreats for 2024. 

“I started to think about retreats last autumn,” says Morgan. “I’m from Melbourne where doing them is the norm, but I wanted to offer ones that aren’t just sound baths and yoga. I’ve launched three for this October: one for creative entrepreneurs, then women and DIY and then the last one is a mother and daughters’ retreat.”

Morgan notes that, unlike some other areas, Herefordshire seems to have largely escaped the downturn. Occupancy is up in the Highlands, Perth/Dundee and Aberdeen too, according to AirDNA. And, of course, some properties book up fast regardless of the weather, trends or hot tub situation. 

Plentiful ensuites help, as do USPs such as private footpaths to the beach. And there’s one thing that will never go out of fashion according to Easton, O’Leary and Aylmer – a prime sea view. It may be modestly kitted out and hot-tub free, but Sea Wall Cottage in the Cornish seaside hamlet of Porth is always in high demand according to Easton, thanks to its position – just metres from the sand.