short-term lets staycation

Staycation boom: Short-term rental sector pulls together through COVID-19

Recovery in the holiday let and short-term rental industry is well and truly underway. Is now the right time to invest in the growing sector?

Earlier this week, the UK Short Term Accommodation Association (STAA) welcomed four new members. The trade body, which represents the short-term rental sector and offers support, advice and best practice guides to its members, now represents a large proportion of the industry across the UK.

The new members are Veeve, Altido, Seven Living and LoveHomeSwap. They are a mixture of management companies and rental firms operating across the UK and sometimes beyond.

As the short-term letting sector has grown in recent years, the existence of a trade body has become vital. Particularly with the rise of the ‘staycation‘ in 2020, short-term and holiday lets are big business.

The STAA hopes that as more members join its ranks, the industry as a whole will strengthen. Commenting on the events of recent months, STAA chair Merilee Karr says the sector has pulled together to work towards full recovery.

She adds: “Come 4 July, we were in a very strong position to reopen safely with new industry-wide cleaning protocols and clarity on what we needed to do to keep guests safe.

“Without doubt, it’s been a very challenging period but I am confident that we are now a stronger industry and we can look forward to working together and with government to grow this fantastic sector responsibly over the coming years.”

How the market has grown

In recent years, growing numbers of buy-to-let landlords have branched out into short-term lets. Holiday rentals operate very differently to long-term rentals, but can be hugely rewarding. Particularly since the government brought in Section 24 tax changes, many landlords are looking for higher returns.

Airbnb has played a big part in the short-term rental boom. It is one of the most popular and successful booking apps, and has seen its membership soar in recent years. More travellers now wish to stay in private accommodation across city, coastal and rural destinations. Airbnb offers thousands of options both within and outside traditional ‘tourist’ destinations, and is growing in popularity.

According to Jessica Gillingham, director at Abode PR, coronavirus has only caused a ‘blip’ in this success. During lockdown, the travel industry has suffered and short-term lets couldn’t operate. She describes it as “an unfortunate but thankfully short-lived hiccup on an otherwise healthy trajectory of growth”.

She adds: “Of course, no one can predict the future, especially in 2020, but the signs are still very good for the short-let market and a continued increase in market penetration. The very fact that bookings have come back with a vengeance this summer shows that consumers desperately want and need their time away from home.

“Holidays are one of our most treasured experiences, and holiday lets, with their ability to be self-contained, make social distancing that much easier (and more pleasant) to practice.”

Succeeding in the short-term rental sector

As any sector grows in popularity, generally the user’s experience and expectations grow, too. This is the case with buy-to-let, as standards have greatly improved over the past couple of decades. However, in today’s review-based world, particularly regarding travel, getting it right is vital.

Choosing the right property is one of the first steps to success. Location, size and standard will all play a big part in attracting guests. Aside from this, advertising, marketing and management also affect user experience and future bookings.

According to Tara Scott, managing director of Click Book Stay, now is the time to perfect your product. “From an owner perspective, getting the right support will be really important going forwards. Now is not the time to fumble around and work things out as you go along; standards, processes and communication will all be key. Now is maybe a good time to consider what extra help is needed and whether using a professional company to manage everything is perhaps the sensible choice.”

If landlords get it right, the yields can be significantly higher than buy-to-let, which you can read more about here. However, for some, the extra work involved may not seem worth the hassle. In this instance, traditional buy-to-let continues to be one of the most popular investment options in the UK, and is certainly the preferred option for many landlords.

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