Bookings soar to record levels for Cotswolds holiday firm
Fast-growing holiday home rentals business StayCotswold says its agile pricing strategy has seen booking levels soar amid a rapid expansion of its portfolio.
The company has seen record trading, with year-on-year letting income for the final quarter of 2022 doubling to £1.7m.
Forward letting income stands at over £1.7m and the business is on track to achieve gross booking value of around £6m for the 12 months to the end of March, up from £3.2m.
Forward booking numbers per property are up 38 per cent compared with the same period last year.
StayCotswold’s portfolio has doubled in the past 12 months to 140 properties and it is on track to reach 160 by the end of January as more are added.
The portfolio includes cottages, houses, luxury converted barns, manor houses and farmhouses as well as a collection of shepherd’s huts and cabins.
Directors of the company, which is based in Stow-on-the-Wold, are aiming to grow the portfolio to around 250 properties by the end of 2024.
Commercial director Mat Faraday said the company’s growth is being fuelled by increasing its market share alongside the expansion of its portfolio.
He said StayCotswold’s bespoke pricing strategy has formed an important part of its business model and is also driving bookings.
“It means we can be completely agile. The algorithms we use enable us to adjust pricing where necessary, and ensure a continuous balance between the requirements and expectations of owners and guests alike,” he said.
“We review the performance of each property at least twice a month, so we are able to quickly match supply and demand for holiday home rentals across our portfolio.”
Mat added: “The cost-of-living crisis and rising energy costs and interest rates mean owners have financial pressures, but guests are experiencing these pressures too and have less disposable income.
“Balancing the demands of property owners and guests in terms of booking numbers and value has to be done intelligently, with careful analysis of the market and the use of dynamic pricing strategies.
“Adopting a simple, inflexible pricing strategy could result in either empty calendars or loss-making bookings. Our pricing expertise is designed to benefit both parties, and this is reflected in the record level of bookings we are seeing.”
He said the company’s marketing strategy is also paying dividends. StayCotswold has upgraded its website with a faster, improved checkout, better maps, a favouriting system and a guide showcasing attractions and activities across the Cotswolds, which are all driving increased traffic. Average new visitor numbers to the website have soared from 28,000 to over 40,000 a month in the past year.
StayCotswold has further boosted its appeal by launching a VIP programme offering guests access to special offers from businesses across the region.
Marketing developments for the business planned for 2023 include improvements to the mobile user experience and further online advertising campaigns.
StayCotswold was founded in 2009 by Fergus Mitchell and, in 2021, a team of professionals with vast experience in the holiday cottages sector acquired the business. Fergus has remained as a director and shareholder.
The team comprises Mat, Tom Burdett and Tracy Archer. Mat co-founded Character Cottages, which was sold to Pure Cottages Group in 2018. Tom is a former managing director of Character Cottages and Tracy was previously sales and marketing director at Pure Cottages Group.
StayCotswold had just three staff when the trio acquired the business. Following a period of rapid growth, its team has increased to 13. Properties in the StayCotswold portfolio can cater for two people all the way to groups of up to 28.
Mat said: “The Cotswolds are within pretty easy reach of major cities such as London, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester and Leeds, and the region has enduring appeal with lovely walks, nice cosy pubs, and properties with roaring log fires.
“Due to the pandemic, the last two years have introduced more people to the idea of a staycation, particularly for holiday lets that can compete with hotels on quality, but are typically better value.
“While many people headed back abroad again in 2022, our booking numbers continue to increase, giving us confidence that cottage holidays in the Cotswolds remain attractive, as there is so much going for the region.”