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It’s The Late Late Show (or Is It?) Sometimes your mind tells you one thing and the data another

Written by Simon Tolson on

Regular readers will recall that I wrote a month ago about how we were facing the unprecedented issue of unfilled summer holiday weeks and laying out a list of tactics to fill in the gaps.  In the end we sold everything so I was feeling pretty smug about how we had rallied under the exceptional circumstances and really delivered for our owners.  September looks a bit sparse though so yet again we are gearing up our marketing efforts and hustling to fill those empty weeks at the last minute.

I’ve been planning this article in my head for a few weeks now,( of course just like when I was at school I only ever actually write it an hour before the copy deadline), with the title ‘The Late Late Show’ talking about how bookings are becoming ever more last minute.  It could be to do with the economy but my suspicion is that with all the choice and accurate availability online people are just getting used to doing things later.  When I travel now I often don’t book anything in advance at all, we just arrive in the afternoon at an attractive place, sit down in a cafe with WiFi and book the best deal nearby on my phone and we’ve even taken to altering our plans according to the weather- last year I flew into Porto and after a few days changed our plans to drive down to the Algarve and drove up to Galicia instead as the weather looked better.  Not so long ago this would have been a real drama and you’d have ended up staying in some grotty places but the combination of online reviews and availability make it a doddle, in fact we ended up getting some fantastic deals.

I thought I’d quantify just how different it is nowadays and ran the numbers for bookings in 2010 compared to this year which showed that the average week then was booked 123 days in advance and this year it’s 132 days in advance. Just a minute that can’t be right as it shows people booking earlier not later!  Right let’s look at all the data:

Year Average days between booking & holiday

  • 2010 - 123
  • 2011 - 122
  • 2012 - 139
  • 2013 - 116
  • 2014 - 132

Average 126.4

Well it turns out that people aren’t booking earlier on average throughout the year but we’ve never had an August like this before so let’s look at school holiday bookings:

Year - Average days between booking & holiday

  • 2010 - 118
  • 2011 - 121
  • 2012 - 142
  • 2013 - 115
  • 2014 - 146

Average 132

Hang on that’s saying that this is the best year of since 2010 for getting earlier school holidays so it must be that the figures are more polarised with a lot of early bookers and a lot of late bookers.  Let’s look at what percentage of school holiday weeks were booked within 30 days of arrival

Year - % holidays booked within 30 days

  • 2010 - 13%
  • 2011 - 17%
  • 2012 - 12%
  • 2013 - 26%
  • 2014 - 16%

Average 16.8%

No it turns out that last year was the tough year and this year has returned to normal I’m going to have to finally admit that the problem is in my head and not in the real world.

So dear readers I can actually report that things are improving this year and I’m confident it will be better still next year, but what was it that had me so convinced and has led to me delivering the speech about the modern internet pushing bookings later so often?

In 2010 I was managing 25 properties and now it’s more than 80 so I can only imagine that the perception is down to numbers- this year I had 3 times as many owners with slow bookings- 3 times more difficult phone calls and 3 times more effort to fill the gaps but in the end I am very pleased to report that in general all is well.  Of course there are winners and losers in the data and the larger the sample the greater the chance of an outlier that is very good or bad.

The truth is that your mind can be set by examples that are not typical, like a bad experience with a dog in a cottage or an unhappy guest and in future I’m going to run the data before speaking, even if it may not make for such an interesting article!

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Making great holidays happen in Cornwall