Survey points to good year for South West tourism

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While the South West hasn’t experienced the ‘Barbecue Summer’ promised by the Met Office, 2009 has been a good year for tourism in the region according to a Cornish market research company.

A poll carried out by PFA Research found that 80 per cent of South West tourism businesses think that their season has been ‘as good or as better’ than 2008.

The South West Business Pulse survey of 123 accommodation providers, carried out by Bodmin-based PFA at the end of July, aimed to gather front-line views to see whether the early season optimism had translated into increased business.

Covering Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset, researchers wanted to see if the recession, poor exchange rates and promise of a ‘Barbecue Summer’ had resulted in increased bookings.

PFA’s managing director, Robert Rush said:

“With recent press coverage focusing on the death of holidays at home, or ‘staycation’ as it has been termed, and the rise in last-minute bookings to foreign destinations we wanted to measure what has been happening.”

“As you would expect the weather has the biggest challenge with 33 per cent of respondents stating that it has been the greatest issue for them.” he continued.

However, despite the regular downpours and lack of sun the survey found that participants were generally positive and upbeat about 2009.

Findings in the survey included:

• Almost half the businesses had reported increased enquiries, while 42 per cent reported an increased number of bookings.

• 72 per cent have an enquiry-to-booking conversion rate of 2:1 or better.

• Cornwall is also the most popular destination for longer breaks with 64 per cent of providers stating that the average length of stay was seven nights.

• Value-for-money accommodation faired best with 56 per cent of caravan and camping sites and 42 per cent of B&B’s reporting increases in bookings.

• 50 per cent of all participants said that so far the recession has had no effect on their business.

“There’s been a lot of interesting surveys carried out recently all offering different perspectives,” added Robert.

“For example, Accenture’s recent survey showed that 45 per cent of people are not planning to take a holiday in the next 12 months.

“But of the 55 per cent who are, 21 per cent of those will compromise travel plans to stay closer to home.

“To me this doesn’t say that the staycation is dead, it says that people will still holiday in the UK, but that tourism businesses across the region will need to be more competitive and innovative in order to generate bookings.”

South West Tourism director, Malcolm Bell, was pleased to see that South West Business Pulse showed that accommodation providers appear to be weathering the economic storm.

He said: “2009 has been a challenging year with earlier talk of bumper years and barbeque summers.

“Then the talk changed to record levels of unemployment and the third wet summer in a row, so it is good to see from this research study that accommodation providers are weathering the economic storm so well and it is a credit to their investment in quality improvements and their promotion and marketing skills.”

To receive a free copy of the summary report of the South West Business Pulse, please email swbp@pfa-research.com or call 01208 262000.